JEFFERSON CITY — A bill recently passed unopposed by the Missouri Senate takes aim at back pain.
State Sen. Jeanie Riddle, R-Callaway County, introduced the bill in early January. If signed into law, it would authorize Missouri HealthNet (Missouri's Medicaid program) to cover up to 20 chiropractic visits per year for HealthNet participants.
After passing the Senate on March 1, it's now being read by the House.
In a press release, Riddle cited several reasons for introducing and sponsoring the bill.
"Too often in our society, people believe a handful of pain killers is the proper prescription for a sore back," Riddle said. "But in some cases, a trip to a specialist, such as a chiropractor, can cure our aches and pains."
She added while some private plans cover chiropractor visits, HealthNet currently does not.
Riddle said she believes by putting chiropractic services within financial reach of Missourians, the state will save money down the line.
"A study conducted in Tennessee by Blue Cross Blue Shield showed when individuals visited a chiropractor first for back pain, they saw a 40-percent savings in their health care costs," Riddle said. "The study also estimated that if treatment for back pain started at the chiropractor's office, the insurance company would have saved more than $2.3 million for their 85,000 subscribers."
She also hopes by increasing alternative options for treating back pain, fewer Missourians will come to rely on opioids for pain management. One out of every 66 deaths in Missouri currently result from opioid overdose, she said.
"Patients who visit chiropractors have a greater likelihood of not being exposed to opioids for their pain, which decreases their risk of addiction," Riddle explained.
The bill's text (bit.ly/2HbcqPq), specifies the covered services are limited to "examinations, diagnoses, adjustments manipulations and treatments of malpositioned articulation and structures of the body." Malpositioned articulations include things like vertebral subluxations — improper positioning or dysfunctions between vertebrae, according to chiropractors.
Those services must be provided by licensed chiropractic physicians to be considered eligible, according to the bill. In Missouri, chiropractors are licensed by the Board of Chiropractic Examiners, a subset of the Missouri Division of Professional Registration.
These restrictions may mean some services offered by some chiropractors might not be covered.
For example, applied kinesiology (which purports to fix ills by strengthening specific weak muscles) doesn't involve treating "malpositioned articulation and structures," nor do acupressure and acupuncture, procedures which chiropractors may be licensed to perform by the Board of Chiropractic Examiners.