No matter where you stand on health care reform, the new law is a big win for chiropractic patients. Although the coverage of health care reform reported nary a whisper about chiropractic physicians, the legislation is set to affect chiropractic physicians and their patients in some very profound and positive ways. First and foremost, the law contains anti-discrimination provisions, which will require insurance companies to cover the full scope of chiropractic services. While you, as a patient, may not see, it, insurance companies have set up a number of roadblocks in front of your care. The first one is that most insurance companies will only pay for one, or maybe two, of the many therapies that a chiropractic physician can perform. So if you need more care than a hot pack and a spinal adjustment, you're out of luck. Either your chiropractic doctor provides the service for free (which is what most of us end up doing) or you get charged an additional fee for your chiropractic insurance "benefit."
The second roadblock is that insurance companies have artificially restricted the diagnoses for which chiropractic care is covered. Usually anything outside of purely musculoskeletal conditions is also outside of your insurance "benefit." Do you suffer diabetes, or heart disease, and are seeking alternative care? Sorry, not covered. Are you looking for fertility treatment that has proven more effective than in-vitro fertilization, is safer, and costs far less? Oops, your insurance doesn't cover that. Would you like acupuncture -- a research proven treatment -- for those chronic sinus infections? We're sorry, but your "benefit" doesn't cover that.
In fact, I'll bet you didn't know that your chiropractic physician could treat those conditions. He can, and that's only the surface. Chiropractic doctors are skilled in treating those chronic conditions that are usually very poorly managed by drugs. But you've never been able to get that care because your insurance company refuses to cover it. In some cases, insurance companies have forbidden chiropractic doctors on their plans to even tell patients that they can provide those services.
But all of that ended with the passage of health care reform. Here's what the president of the American Chiropractic Association had to say:
“Regardless of how you feel about this legislation and its overall impact on the nation, it has to be recognized as an historic first for the chiropractic profession. We now have a federal law applicable to ERISA plans that makes it against the law for insurance companies to discriminate against doctors of chiropractic and other providers relative to their participation and coverage in health plans. Such discrimination based on a provider’s license is inappropriate and now must stop,” said ACA President, Rick McMichael, DC.
“While this does not fully level the playing field for doctors of chiropractic in our health care system, this is a highly significant step that has the potential for positive, long-range impact on the profession and the patients we serve. Congress has finally addressed the issue of provider discrimination based on one’s license, and they have said that such discrimination must stop.”
When this law finally goes into effect, that discrimination will stop, allowing you to utilize your chiropractic physician for the full scope of services for which he is qualified.
And that will be a good day for your health, and a great day for the health of this nation. Perhaps then we will begin to turn away from the pill-for-every-ill mentality that has made us one of the unhealthiest of the industrialized nations.