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Alberta delists chiropractic coverage from provincial health care plan

The Edmonton Journal

Albertans will no longer be able to claim chiropractic care starting this summer, after the government delisted chiropractor services from its provincial health plan.

The cut, which will save approximately $53 million, will mean patients will be out up to $200 each year.

The province also cut coverage for gender reassignment surgery or sex-change operations, a move that will save $700,000, leaving about 20 patients each year on the hook for procedures that cost anywhere between $18,000 and $70,000.

“We want to ensure that we look after the most vulnerable in society and at the same time we have the cost pressures of what we can afford and what we can’t afford, and so some tough decisions have to be made,” Health Minister Ron Liepert said.

He said he had to find $42 million to boost home-care for seniors, and the cuts to chiropractic care and for sex changes was the solution. “This is not about whether the service is a required service or a desired service. This is about making tough choices in the budget. We can’t cover everything.”

Chiropractors knew the cut was being discussed, but have no plans to lobby the government to change its decision.

“We’re a little disappointed, obviously,” said Dr. Clark Mills, president of the Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors. “We’re confident Albertans value chiropractic and its benefits.”

“I think it is now in the hands of Albertans,” Mills said. “If it is something they wanted embedded in health care, they will have to make that case.”

Mills said delisting chiropractic service seems to be the trend in Canada, with both B.C. and Ontario making similar decisions in the past. Those provinces saw an initial drop in patients turning to chiropractors, but that turned around quickly. Quebec and the Atlantic provinces offer no coverage.

Mills said he suspects seniors and people with low incomes might cancel appointments. He imagines they might return for care once third-party insurance companies offer more coverage.

NDP Leader Brian Mason said the chiropractic cut may end up costing government more in the long run.

“I think very often that kind of care keeps people out of the health-care system and saves money,” Mason said. “I think that’s unfortunate.”

13 comments to Alberta delists chiropractic coverage from provincial health care plan

  • Ontario delisted Chiropractic care a few years ago.

    BEST thing that ever happened. It immediately empowered people to become more active in their own health.

    Myself and other Ontario Chiropractors love the fact that OHIP delisted Chiropractic.

  • Knowing a number of chiropractors in Ontario I would say that this view is not universally shared. The stigma of delisting from universal health care does not necessarily empower people. In fact, it devalues the service in the minds of the public and hard work is necessary in order to restore that sense of value.

    I think our brethren in Ontario and BC (and now Alberta) would be in a much more difficult state if most of the co-pay was not already covered by private insurance plans.

  • Sherry

    As an RMT I am thrilled. So many people go the the Chiropractor because it is cheap. Massage Therapy should now be considered a better value than Chiropractc.

  • Ryan

    This is not a good thing, for me the extra expense will impact my bank account. Going to the masseuse is not an option, they are always more expensive and not as well trained.

  • Frank

    I also agree that this is not good. This includes devaluing chiropractic in the eyes of the uninformed, and completely ignores the findings of the Manga Report, which revealed that the government would save a fortune if more care was diverted away from ineffective medical treatment and towards chiropractic.

    I can sympathize with Sherry (wishing for more business) but you must understand that many of the joint complaints chiropractors address will not resolve with massage.

  • Shlomo Eze

    I agree with the above, as a family physician, I refered many of my patients to DCs, as they seem to take care of the musculoskeletal conditions very well. However, with Delisting, it would be hard to convince patients, it will take time, afterall, Dental and Optometry are NOT covered, so Chiropractic will join these paraprofessionals. Furthermore, to equate Chiropractic to Massage is an Oxymoron, I respect both professions, however the knowledge base of Chiropractor surpass RMTs by leaps and bounds. I often refer to RMTs for the occasional Soft tissue complaints, but for serious ailments like Whiplash or work related injuries, Chiropractors are the way to go……Hope you guys will bounce back ;)
    Cheers,
    Shlomo Eza, MD

  • Dan Palmeruski

    The issue is Albertans lost a subsidy. The Conservativ gov’t felt the subsidy for Chiropractic services was less necessary than homecare for seniors for example. This demonstrates lack of forthought as many seniors rely on the Chiropractor to keep them painfree and more functional in the activities of daily living. This only cost a senior about $19 out of pocket for a visit and the Alberta average was about 8 visits per year….so for under $200 out of pocket per senior you got improved function, less pain and also encourages self-responsibility. Now homecare will cost more per senior and beleive me, costs will rise exponentially and by the year 2020 demographics sohw 25% of Canadians will be seniors compared to 13% in 2009. Very shortsighted on this Alberta government. Bush league Liepert !!!!!

  • Sherry

    I am not in any way compareing the educational accomplishments of Chiropractors vs. Mt’s, Chiropractors are indeed and invaluble part of any health care team. However what I am comparing is the perceived value. When the rates double and the treatments remain the same value goes down. Seven minutes for 30+ dollars is not a good deal. Many Chiropractors will have to anti-up and offer more than just a quick crunch. As for musculo-anything, most chiropractors leave that to the contracted RMT in their offices, which they ALL have. Best of both worlds I would say.
    Having said that it is truly unfortunate that any service is being delisted, it furthers the 2 tierd system which is developing in our province. The wealthier will still have the access where as the rest will not.

  • Shlomo Eza, MD

    Yes, Agree with you all, DCs are doing amazing job for many of my patients, same with RMTs. DCs now join DDSs and Psychologists, also not covered.
    Eventually as a medical doctor, I think only Medically necessary services will be provided. Sadly, the gov is now working as HMOs in the states, or Managed Care.
    As for perceived value, I spend 5-7 mins per patient yet, in many cases I offer a unique service, that is prompt & required. Perceived value has nothing to do with time spent. The Chiro can rub oil for 20 minutes, then deliver specific manipulation which will mobolize hypomobile or arthritic joints. Perceived value has to do with Outcome measures. Another example would be to spend 5 hours with a bookkeeper, and save 2000$ on your tax return vs. spending 1 hour with a CA, and save 20,000$ ;)

    I think the Gov is making a mistake and is considering only short term solution for a long term problem, i.e the baby boomers.

    We see that in medicine as well, many labs are not going to be covered: PSA etc…..Opthamological exams, even bone dentsity, has a new protocol, to cut down cost, not so much for the best interest of the patient !!

    Cheers ;)

  • Allen

    Fairly short sighted govt. Hey, I know. Let all go to our Dr. instead! That is covered. I am sure that will be cheaper for the govt! Even if it is not as effective… I guess we will just have to go more often then.

    Perhaps they could of saved the 50 million if they did not take over all the ambulance services? Or even charged a reasonable amount for energy royalties. (gasp!)

  • Pat

    It would seem that again the governments “slip is showing” in that they consistently undervalue “preventions” in lieu of “interventions”, but then that’s what they have been taught/forced into over decades. It will take a long time for the tide to turn, but we can see from the above posts that it already has begun to change.

  • If people value the service they will pay for it. if they can’t afford it they will stop coming anyways when their benefits would run out. the reimbursement in Ontario hadn’t changed I think for over 20 years, while costs and prices kept going up so the consumer was paying more and more anyways. Provide a superior service and deliver value and educate people on the benefits of the adjustment and people will continue to get adjusted regardless of government insurance.

  • There was no evidence based reason to delist chiropractors, it was done by a group of lay people in political authority thinking they were doing their job of health cost cutting. It was wrong based on evidence and studies. Countries like Sweden, Finland etc have a physician user fee for an office visit. This notion of free-medical care in Canada must change. We need a federal gov’t with balls to reopen the Canada Health Act. This is the only way to truly change things. Too many left thinking Canadians….just look at how the federal NDP has climbed in the polls. People in need feel it’s the governments responsibility to pay for their woes through higher taxation. We simply have to get out of this social welfare thinking in this country. Look how well it’s served Greece !!

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