Complementary and Alternative Medicine May Help Reduce Health Care Costs

Published by: Barnes PM, Bloom B, Nahin R. Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use Among Adults and Children: United States, 2007. CDC National Health Statistics Reports #12. 2008.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use by Adults in 2007

Complementary and Alternative Medicine May Help Reduce Health Care Costs

A report published in the January 2013 issue of the journal Health Affairs noted that higher utilization of complementary and alternative medicine  may help reduce health care costs.   The authors found that utilization of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) was on the rise up to 2002 but plateaued from 2002-2008, possibly due to increasing higher out of pocket expenses for these services.  With health care costs on the rise various public and private insurers have been looking at ways to save money. The authors of the study note that eliminating CAM services would be largely ineffective as a way to save on health care costs. Moreover, the authors note that eliminating CAM services would result in increase health care spending as patients utilize “covered” services that typically cost more than CAM services.

In the state of Illinois chiropractic services for adults were eliminated from the state medicaid program.  Medicaid paid less than $7 per visit to a chiropractor.  Like the authors of the study found, we believe that by eliminating chiropractic the state will actually spend more money than save.  For example, before the cut in service a patient on Medicaid could see a chiropractor and cost the state $7 per visit. The care that patient might need would cost the state maybe $200 total.  Contrast that with medical care, a visit to a primary care will cost the state anywhere from $12.30 up to $70.85.  If you tack on imaging studies like X-Ray’s or an MRI it would be easy to see costs into the low thousands of dollars. The state would do better to encourage Medicaid patients to seek chiropractic services first for back and neck pain instead of medical care to help keep costs down, this study confirms it.


The authors of this study make several interesting points.

  • “As health care policy-makers, payers, and other stakeholders attempt to reduce waste in health care systems, they should recognize that excluding currently covered complementary and alternative medicine services would, at best, produce only meager cost savings. Operating under more free-market conditions, the pricing of complementary and alternative medicine services appears to be more self-regulating than that of the conventional health care sector. This difference suggests that payment systems that encourage consumers to make educated decisions under the constraint of a budget may help constrain health care spending growth.”
  • “Considering that complementary and alternative medicine appears to be relatively inexpensive when compared to allopathic medicine, if medical care providers are willing to collaborate with local complementary and alternative medicine service providers, offering at least some complementary and alternative medicine services could help accountable care organizations achieve their objectives.”
  • Finally, with the data showing chiropractic not only as the predominant source of CAM utilization and expenditures, but also reflecting increased total and per-user costs over the study period, chiropractic might be considered by some a prime candidate to be excluded from health insurance as a cost-reduction strategy. However, the authors suggest just he opposite, concluding: “Health care policy- makers need to consider the potential ‘offset effects’ of patients’ substituting for the excluded services with other covered services at equal or even greater cost.”

If you have back pain a chiropractic office is the best first place to start for care.  Our care is the most cost effective option you have. If you have back pain, or if you know someone with back pain give us a call. We are here to help.

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Posted in Healthcare Policy and Politics

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