Most Canadians would probably agree that if there was one thing we, as a nation, truly value, it is our universal healthcare system. We take pride in living in a country that ensures all residents have reasonable access to primary care. But, is our healthcare really free? Unfortunately, it is not. In fact, health benefits are paid for with taxes and other revenue sources. This is why it is in everyone’s best interest to use healthcare services responsibly to ensure their sustainability.
Provincial governments are now spending on average 40% of their total budgets on healthcare. With the growing number of aging Canadians, that amount is expected to increase dramatically. Canada will need to reconsider how it delivers healthcare services to address these rising pressures. In fact, new models striving towards innovation and collaboration may be part of the solution to maintain sustainability of the services for future generations.
Chiropractic Care Saves Healthcare Dollars
The Manga Report1, commissioned by the Ontario Ministry of Health, illustrated how chiropractic care is cost-effective in the management of low back pain — a leading cause of disability and morbidity among Canadians.
The conclusions of the study were:
- That there was an “overwhelming body of evidence indicating that chiropractic management of low-back pain is more cost-effective than medical management”.
- That Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) could potentially save hundreds of millions of dollars every year if primary treatment of LBP was transferred from primary physicians to chiropractors.
The authors of the study recommended that OHIP fully insure chiropractic treatment, not only for its effectiveness in managing low back pain, but for its cost-efficiency. They noted that transferring primary treatment of low-back pain from physicians to chiropractors would “lead to very significant savings in healthcare expenditure, and even larger savings if a more comprehensive view of the economic costs of low back pain is taken.” The authors also recommended hospitals employ chiropractors to reduce the instances of low back surgery, which they claim is very costly and often unnecessary.
Evidence clearly shows that chiropractic care is safe and effective for MSK injuries and conditions, as well as being more cost effective than standard medical treatment. Importantly, the decision-makers are now taking notice. Recently, the Ontario provincial government announced a new strategy that aligns with the Manga study recommendations. The projects will provide Ontarians access to inter professional healthcare teams, including chiropractors, to:
- Provide faster, more accurate assessment of low back pain problems.
- Use a more holistic approach to treating patients suffering from low back pain.
- Educate patients on low back pain self-management techniques.
- Refer patients to an appropriate healthcare provider as needed.
The locations chosen are Windsor-Essex, Orillia, Scarborough, Sudbury, Belleville, and North Glengary as well as already established Mount Forest, East Wellington and Minto-Mapleton Family Health Clinics.
Manitoba Leads Canada in Providing Chiropractic Coverage
The Manitoba government has been a leader in providing direct access to chiropractic care to its residents.
Manitoba Provincial Funding for Chiropractic
- All Residents: Manitoba Health, Healthy Living and Seniors covers chiropractic services for residents at $10.75 per visit up to 12 visits per year. Residents living above the 53rd parallel are covered for the same services but at $11.85 per visit.
- Motor Vehicle Collision Victims: Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) fully covers chiropractic care for those injured in car crashes and encourages residents to consult with a chiropractor within the first 24 hours of the collision for quicker recovery.
- Low-Income Residents: Social assistance recipients are covered for 12 visits per year with pre-authorization.
To better manage MSK conditions, including low back pain, provinces and the federal government will have to draw from Canada’s history of innovation and rethink how we deliver care and by which provider. Studies, including the Manga report, and new pilot projects have highlighted the distinct role that chiropractors can play in the appropriate management of low back pain.
- Manga P, Angus D, Papadopoulos C, Swan W. The Effectiveness and Cost-Effectiveness of Chiropractic Management of Low Back Pain. Funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health, August, 1993.