Letter to Forbes.com

To the Editor:

Doctors of chiropractic (DCs) were troubled after reading the latest ill-informed attack on the chiropractic profession by Steven Salzberg, PhD. His latest Forbes blog post “New Medicare Data Reveal Startling $496 Million Wasted On Chiropractors” is sensationalism at its finest, as chiropractic has historically made up less than 1% of all Medicare claims.

It’s evident to anyone who is truly interested in fixing the problems facing the U.S. health care system that chiropractic physicians, with their conservative approach to pain relief and health promotion, are an important part of the solution. DCs are the highest rated healthcare practitioners for low-back pain treatments—treating nearly 27 million Americans annually—above physical therapists, specialist physicians/MDs (i.e., neurosurgeons, neurologists, orthopedic surgeons) and primary care physicians/MDs (i.e., family or internal medicine). This is not surprising when you consider that injured workers are 28 times less likely to undergo spinal surgery if their first point of contact is a DC rather than a surgeon (MD), and that treatment for low back pain initiated by a chiropractic physician costs up to 20% less than treatment started by a MD.

If the blog contributor were truly interested in facts, he would have mentioned that chiropractic consistently outperforms all other back pain treatments, including prescription medication, deep-tissue massage, yoga, Pilates, and over-the-counter medication therapies according to a leading consumer survey. He also might have mentioned that unnecessary spinal fusion surgery (a procedure that has seen a 500% increase in the last decade) has resulted in an estimated $200 million in improper billing to Medicare in 2011 alone. It is noteworthy that Medicare deemed the surgeries medically unnecessary because more conservative treatment hadn’t been tried first.

What makes this viewpoint so short-sighted is also that the need for providers who offer a conservative approach to pain management has never been greater. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently classified prescription drug abuse in the United States as epidemic. The U.S. is home to six percent of the world’s population, yet consumes 80% of its pain medication.

DCs are designated as physician-level providers in the vast majority of states and the federal Medicare program. The services provided by DCs are also available in federal health delivery systems, including those administered by Medicaid, the U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense, Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, Federal Workers' Compensation, and all state workers' compensation programs. DCs complete nationally accredited, four-year doctoral graduate school programs with a curriculum that includes a minimum of 4,200 hours of classroom, laboratory and clinical internship, with the average DC program equivalent in classroom hours to medical and osteopathic schools.

Chiropractic services are one of the safest and most effective treatments for back pain, neck pain and headaches, and can help patients avoid riskier treatments, more expensive care and get well sooner. If Forbes.com is interested in presenting more balanced information on improving patient care and cutting excessive health care spending, DCs would encourage the editors to choose articles without the steeped misinformation and blatant personal bias shown in this commentary.

Thank you,
Anthony W. Hamm, DC
President, American Chiropractic Association


Share this post: