Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock in the last few weeks, you’re aware of the financial crisis that is affecting the world. With governments stepping in with millions (and billions) of dollars to bail out companies and banks alike, its time to realize that this is going to start affecting all government delivered services. In Canada specifically, this means inevitable consequences for the most expensive provincial ministry – Health.

In various provinces over the years, chiropractic care has been de-listed from the necessary health care services which are covered under the provincial plan. Each time, projected cost savings has been listed as the reason for the cut. By axing chiropractic services, the government can save 15-20 million per year in payments. What they don’t seem to realize (or they do and don’t care) is that people who would have sought out a course of $40 chiropractic visits for their back pain will now cost the system much, much more for an MD visit, prescription medication, an unnecessary X-ray or MRI, specialist consults and possibly surgery.

This phenomenon has been documented in several instances in the literature. The largest and most comprehensive study to date was a 2004 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine.  The authors analyzed the claims data of 1.7 million California residents – 1 million without chiropractic benefits in their plans, and 700,000 who had chiropractic benefits included.

What they found was that those people with chiropractic coverage spent 12% less per year on total health care costs. They also used less X-rays and MRIs, had fewer surgeries and hospitalizations, and spent 28% less money each time they had a back pain episode.

The authors concluded that having chiropractic benefits as part of a plan helped to reduce the overall cost of the plan in four ways:

  1. People choosing chiropractic were choosing a safer treatment with less side effects. Side effects will lead to increased cost due to the fact that they then need to be further managed.
  2. People would substitute chiropractic in the place of more expensive and less effective medical care, specifically for spine related conditions.
  3. Chiropractic was more conservative and less invasive than some other medical treatments.
  4. Chiropractic has lower health service costs than other common forms of health care.

Its time to start making health care decisions that will pay off in the future, and stop sacrificing long term viability for short term gain. Chiropractic has been shown to be an effective and cost-effective form of treatment for spine and spine-related problems. Health care policy decisions need to start being made based on evidence and research, and not on which lobby group is the strongest.