School of Business Administration,
Rochester, MI 48039-4401
OBJECTIVE: To compare the health care costs of patients who have received chiropractic treatment in insurance plans that do not restrict chiropractic or medical benefits with those treated solely by medical and osteopathic physicians.
DESIGN: Retrospective statistical analysis of 2 yr of claims data on total insurance payments and total outpatient payments.
OUTCOME MEASURES: Total insurance payments and total outpatient payments, each adjusted for sociodemographic characteristics.
RESULTS: Patients receiving chiropractic care experienced significantly lower total health care costs as represented by adjusted third-party payments in the fee-for-service sector. Total adjusted cost differences ranged from $291 to $1722 over the 2-yr period. Total adjusted outpatient costs tended to be slightly lower for medical patients but lower hospital utilization for chiropractic patients more than offsets the additional outpatient costs associated with chiropractic care.
CONCLUSIONS: The analysis of well-insured patients in plans that do not restrict the chiropractic benefit strengthens results previously reported. In this study, therefore, the favorable cost patterns for chiropractic patients cannot be attributed to insurance restrictions limiting reimbursement for chiropractic services relative to other services. Because adjustments for patient characteristics systematically reduce the cost advantages of chiropractic patients as compared to mean differences derived from unadjusted data, the results also demonstrate that adjusted values should be used for meaningful comparisons between the two groups of patients.