By: Caitlin Jones, UWS doctor of chiropractic and sports medicine student
My first blog for University of Western States was about my trip this past January to Washington, D.C. with the Student American Chiropractic Association (SACA) to advocate for chiropractic care on the Hill. We usually advocate for multiple bills but this year the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) and SACA focused only on H.R. 3654, because it is so crucial for our Medicare patients to get the chiropractic treatment they need.
We just passed the one-year mark of Rep. Brian Higgins (NY) introducing H.R. 3654 to modernize chiropractic Medicare coverage. The last time Medicare’s chiropractic policy was updated was in 1972! If you think about our profession, how much has changed in the past decade let alone 48 years? As it stands, a patient with Medicare coverage can only see a chiropractic physician for spinal manipulation. If your wrist hurts or your chiropractic physician thinks that you need some soft tissue work or an x-ray – you would need to pay out-of-pocket if your insurance is Medicare. For these patients who are on fixed incomes, it is a struggle and they are unable to get the care that they need and are seeking.
Imagine that you go to your chiropractic physician for back pain and they think you may have a compression fracture. They suggest an x-ray but cannot perform or give you a referral, even though it is in their scope of practice. Instead, you need to go to your PCP to get a new physical exam, then a referral to a radiologist for the x-ray and then back to the chiropractic physician for treatment. What could have taken moments now takes weeks.
Because of this financial and time burden placed on Medicare patients, many chiropractic physicians are opting out of taking Medicare insurance. Medicare patients then go to their PCP for back or hip pain that could have been managed conservatively and instead they are prescribed pain medications. This has contributed to the opioid crisis that we have been struggling to overcome for years.
What the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) and SACA are asking for with H.R. 3654 is not an expansion of Medicare, it is to allow chiropractors to be able to treat their patients under the scope of their license. We want to give our patients the treatment they need for their pain and improve their quality of life.
What we need is for you to get involved! It has taken a little more than a year to get 82 co-sponsors and we need more to give this bill the best chance of going up for a vote. It only takes a moment to write or call your representative, let them know how this affects your patients (present and future!) and their constituents. Make it clear that this is a bi-partisan bill that does not expand coverage but allows chiropractic physicians to treat their patients properly.
Visit the ACA website where you can find FAQs and information about how to find your representative. Be sure to encourage others and reach out to your representative TODAY!