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Medicare Bill Upgrades Chiropractic Coverage

Medicare Bill Upgrades Chiropractic Coverage

Over the years, chiropractic care and physical therapy have respectively ranked one-two when it comes to customer satisfaction compared to services provided by primary care physicians (PCP). The high marks came from sources like Consumer Reports and American Journal of Public Health and it doesn’t stop with the high value patients place on chiropractic medicine. Taxpayers and healthcare consumers with Medicare coverage learned back in 2015 from the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine that chiropractic care was apparently saving $83.5 million a year in reduced Medicare patient visits to personal care physicians to treat neck and back pain.

Fewer visits to mainstream medical providers in favor of chiropractic medicine says a lot about patient loyalty and which is the most cost-efficient option. Imagine the impact on Medicare if other provisions of chiropractic care were covered beyond subluxation corrections through manual manipulation of the spine. 

On April 7, 2022, a bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate that “expands Medicare coverage of chiropractic services to include ALL SERVICES provided by chiropractors.” That legislation is the Chiropractic Medicare Coverage Modernization Act of 2022 (S4042), which was immediately referred to the Finance Committee whose oversight includes all Medicare-related legislation. This joins a companion bill in the House of Representatives (H.R. 2654), both with significant support, according to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), which, in the aftermath of the Senate Bill, reported this provided “an added sense of credibility to the cause.” 

Is there any indication this could become “a source of partisan squabbling,” as has too often been the case in both chambers over the last several years? It is too early to tell or to label what would be a boon for chiropractic care as a liberal or conservative issue.

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Medicare beneficiaries want to lead active lives, but as we age musculoskeletal problems become more common. Access to chiropractic’s safe, patient-centered and evidence-based nondrug approach to back pain, neck pain and other musculoskeletal conditions provides options to those who wish to reduce or avoid pain medications and surgery. —American Chiropractic Association (ACA) President Michele Maiers, DC, MPH, PhD
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The introduction of the Senate Bill after what the ACA termed “an identical bipartisan-supported bill” in the House is regarded by the largest professional chiropractic organization in the United States as an attempt to “modernize Medicare coverage and better meet the needs of today’s seniors by increasing access to services provided by doctors of chiropractic.” The original four co-sponsors this legislation are as bipartisan as you can get— two Democrats and two Republicans — and the House Bill has accumulated 130 co-sponsors from both parties.

It comes on the threshold of when the number of Medicare-eligible Americans 65 and older is expected to increase by an estimated one-third over the current 60 million with the last of the legion of Baby Boomers. Medicare beneficiaries are currently covered for only one chiropractic service—manual manipulation of the spine—and forced to pay for additional services out of pocket or to seek those services from a different type of provider, requiring more time, travel and expense.

Coverage was established under the Medicare program for beneficiaries to receive chiropractic care was established in 1972 as an amendment to the Social Security Act. Fifty years later the wording in the Senate Bill describes why this change in coverage is essential: “Today, due to positive evidence-based outcomes and cost effectiveness of the services provided by doctors of chiropractic, private coverage for chiropractic services has evolved and State licensure for chiropractors has advanced to meet patient needs and health outcomes.”

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