Mary is a 45-year-old mother of three who felt it was time to visit a chiropractor. She found a list of chiropractic offices in her area, then picked up the phone and called one. She asked the receptionist two questions: “How much does it cost?” and “Do you accept my insurance?”
The receptionist informed her that there was no charge for a consultation, and that they do accept her insurance. Mary happily scheduled an appointment for the following day. When she arrived, the doctor performed a brief exam and took two x-rays. He placed the films on an x-ray view box and told Mary she had several misaligned vertebrae that needed to be realigned. He then recommended a 24-week care plan. The frequency of visits would be as follows:
- Weeks 1-2: 6 visits (3X/week)
- Weeks 3-5: 6 visits (2X/week)
- Weeks 6-24: 19 visits (1X/week)
Mary left the chiropractic office eager to fix her spinal condition. When she got to work that morning, she told her friend Anne about the experience. Having received chiropractic care in the past, Anne thought that 31 visits over 6 months seemed rather extensive. She asked how much it was going to cost Mary to receive that many treatments.
Mary assumed the whole program would be covered since the receptionist told her they accepted her insurance. Being the company accountant, Anne mentally tabulated the cost. “Mary, the insurance plan we have from work has a $30 co-pay. That means you’ll have to pay $30 at least 31 times… That’s over $900!”
Mary’s desire to use health insurance is perfectly natural… People are so used to seeing eye-popping medical bills (E.R. visits, lab tests, diagnostic images, etc) that they assume chiropractic visits are going to be just as expensive. Asking the “Do you accept my insurance?” question has become habitual in our society.
People are much less familiar with the fact that they can get starkly contrasting treatment recommendations between two chiropractic offices.
One office may recommend 31 visits over 24 weeks, while another may recommend 6 visits over 12 weeks. Office #3 might “require” 52 visits over a year, yet Office #4 adjusts anyone who walks in off the street and doesn’t even have scheduled appointments!
The purpose of this post isn’t to question or disparage the advice or quality of care offered by any particular chiropractor. Instead, my aim is to shed light on the average patient’s slavish dependency on health insurance.
When it comes to chiropractic care, consumers could greatly benefit from weighing factors besides their network. Time-commitment, deductible, and co-pay are additional elements that need to be considered when deciding between in/out-of-network doctors.
It may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes using your insurance can cost a lot more than paying out of pocket!