New bill could add chiropractic to Arizona Medicaid

Arizona may join other states adding chiropractic care for chronic pain to its Medicaid program, according to an announcement by the state legislature.

In an effort to address the growing need for opioid alternatives in pain care, government officials are proposing Senate Bill 1097, which passed in the Senate at the end of February. The bill would cover chiropractic services for Medicaid recipients that are performed by a licensed chiropractor and ordered by a primary care physician.

Introduced by Senator Heather Carter (R-Cave Creek), the new bill would allow patients on the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System to get a prescription from their primary care physician for 20 yearly chiropractic visits, and more as needed at the physician's discretion.

The challenge with chiropractic care, especially for patients with severe chronic pain, is that is requires many visits up front, sometimes two or three visits a week of to get the body functioning properly. This acute care can last a couple of months, tapering off steadily before an individual can transition to what practitioners might call maintenance care, or one or two visits a month. This means many Medicaid recipients may need more than 20 annual visits, at least at the beginning of their recovery.

The bill is currently being reviewed by the House, and Representative Randy Friese (D-Tucson) told Arizona Central that the limitations are meant to safeguard the state’s first attempt at covering a new practice. If recipients are consistently meeting the imposed caps, they will consider removing the limits. Legislatures are considering both budget implications and how to best address the opioid crisis.  

Many states already offer chiropractic care, with about 30 states offering some form of coverage through their state Medicaid program, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This bill adds options for both physicians and patients who experience chronic pain and want to improve their quality of life.