Let’s face it. Health care is expensive. Consequently, health insurance is expensive. Health care related expenses are taking a bigger chunk out of every family’s budget and medical bills are one of the most common causes of bankruptcy in America. The debate over what to do about it is a heated one these days. Unfortunately, while most people are arguing about WHO pays for it, we should be trying to figure out how to decrease our need for medical care, which is the only real way to decrease the associated costs.
A study published in the January 2013 issue of Health Affairs tackled this conundrum by looking at how chiropractic care and other forms complementary and alternative medicine can help drive down total health care costs. Health insurance companies often cut or limit coverage for these services in order to save money. According to the study, cutting chiropractic coverage actually “triggered increased spending.” Furthermore, the author stated that “complementary and alternative medicine appears to be relatively inexpensive when compared to allopathic medicine” and that “if medical care providers are willing to collaborate with local complementary and alternative medicine service providers,” health insurance providers would be more likely to cut overall costs and "help slow growth in national health care spending."I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a patient get well in my office for their back pain instead of following through on the referral to the “pain clinic” where they would have had spinal injections (which cost $2,000 apiece). By seeing me instead of getting injections every 90 days, I’m saving that health insurance company up to $8,000 per year. In addition, we also see people who no longer need to fill their prescriptions for migraine meds, pain meds, and arthritis medications (which are VERY expensive) and we are also able to help people avoid unbelievably expensive surgeries. Yet instead of sending me a fruit basket as a thank you for saving them all that money, most health insurance companies discriminate against chiropractors in their plans. It makes no sense to me, especially since most mainstream medical treatments for things like back pain, neck pain, and headaches are just masking the problem, anyway!
When it comes to medical providers collaborating with chiropractors, I’ll hold my breath on that one. I still have patients tell me that their medical doctors don’t approve of them seeing me, even when they’ve had great results here. Most of them just can’t get past the negative views they were force fed in medical school. It’s better than it was, but we have a long way to go before medical doctors play nice with alternative health care practitioners.Most medical docs still believe that drugs and surgeries are the only path to health. They largely ignore things like diet and exercise, and mostly shun alternative therapies like chiropractic care. As long as that notion remains the norm, our population will continue to get sicker and sicker. Because if one thing is for certain, the more drugs a person is on, the sicker they tend to get, regardless of who pays for it. The focus should be on getting people healthier through natural means and only resorting to drugs and surgeries when all else fails. We will save money AND lives. Win-win.
Dr. Jared Plemon BS, DC is a doctor of chiropractic at Zehr Chiropractic in Norton Shores, Michigan. He specializes in the treatment of neck pain, back pain, and extremity pain utilizing cutting edge, non-manipulative chiropractic techniques. He blogs about nutrition, exercise, and how chiropractic care fits in with the overall health landscape. He lives in West Michigan with his wife and two children.