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Access to Chiropractic May Reduce Medical Spending on Spine Conditions for Seniors

A study published on August 9, 2019, by the American Journal of Managed Care shows that when the elderly have access to chiropractic care, the expenditures for spine related problems decreases.

The purpose of the study, as stated by the authors was, "Chiropractic care is a service that operates outside of the conventional medical system and is reimbursed by Medicare. Our objective was to examine the extent to which accessibility of chiropractic care affects spending on medical spine care among Medicare beneficiaries."

This study looked at health records of 84,679 older adults enrolled in Medicare who had moved at least once from 2010 to 2014. The researchers checked to see if these Medicare recipients moved from an area of higher access to chiropractors to an area of lower access, or from an area of low access to a higher access area.

The researchers would then look at the expenditures for these people to see if relocating to a new area with either a higher or lower density of chiropractors had an effect on overall spending for medical spine-related conditions. The researchers also adjusted their results of account for any availability changes in medical care. With this, the results obtained would be purely due to the accessibility of chiropractic care.

The study reports the financial impact that spine related conditions has by noting, "Back pain and neck pain are associated with an estimated direct cost of $86 billion to the United States economy." The study also reports, "Approximately one-fourth of all adults will experience nonspecific back pain during a 3-month period, and at any one point in time, approximately 30% of older adults suffer from back pain."

Chiropractic care is widely used by the U.S. population as the study states. "With more than 100 million visits for spine conditions each year the chiropractic profession is the largest health service that operates outside of the conventional medical system and the only such service reimbursed by Medicare."

The importance of this type of information was explained by the researchers when they described the usage of chiropractic for the population is covered by Medicare. "Medicare spends $400 million to $500 million on chiropractic care each year and chiropractic care has been scrutinized several times by the Office of the Inspector General. A prior study uncovered an association between higher accessibility of chiropractic care and lower reliance on primary care services, suggesting that chiropractic care may substitute for medical care."

This study showed that overall there was a statistically significant reduction in costs for medical care of spine conditions when chiropractic care was more readily available. In their conclusion, the authors summed their findings by saying, "Among older adults, access to chiropractic care may reduce medical spending on services for spine conditions."

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