Objective: A managed care organization (MCO) examined differences in allowed cost for managing low back pain by medical providers vs chiropractors in an integrated care environment. The purpose of this study is to provide a retrospective cost analysis of administrative data of chiropractic vs medical management of low back pain in a managed care setting.
Methods: All patients with a low back pain-related diagnosis presenting for health care from January 2004 to June 2004 who were insured by an MCO in northeast Wisconsin were tracked. The cumulative health care costs incurred by this MCO during the 2-year period from January 2004 to December 2005 related to these back pain diagnoses were collected.
Results: Allowed costs of chiropractic treatment were 12% greater than medical primary care and 60% less per case than other types of medical care combined, on a per-case basis: median cost of medical primary care was $365.00, chiropractic care was $417.00, and medical nonprimary care was $669.00.
Conclusion: This study of an MCO's low back pain allowed costs may be better redirected to primary care or chiropractic, given equivalent levels of case complexity. This study suggests chiropractic management as less expensive compared with medical management of back pain when care extends beyond primary care. Primary care management alone is virtually indistinguishable from chiropractic management in terms of costs.