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Thank the ACA for Blue Cross Using Choosing Wisely Standards in New Chiropractic Coverage Policy

Illinois Blues Adopts Choosing Wisely & Credits the ACA

Ever since the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) adopted its dangerous Choosing Wisely standards and made its members sign a pledge that they would follow them, the ACA has been reeling from the fallout. Numerous groups and organizations across the spectrum of the profession have rejected the ACA's move and the ACA House of Delegates is embroiled in an internal battle over control of the organization as members drop their support and express their outrage.

In the latest buffoonery, the President of the ACA Ray Tuck DC, attempts to get the proverbial toothpaste back in the tube by begging Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois to withdraw ". . . all coverage standards derived from the Choosing Wisely article from the Chiropractic services coverage policy."

Keep in mind that the article Tuck is referring to actually comes from the ACA, has their logo and branding on it and is being jointly promoted by the ACA and the American Board of Independent Medical Examiners (ABIME). Guess what these folks do for a living?

CLICK HERE for more on these doctors of the evening

Does the ACA actually think anyone will believe that they did not see this coming and that this newfound indignation is simply window dressing to fool ACA members into thinking they are doing something about the very problem they created on purpose?

Several months ago the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) released a list of five tests it states are commonly ordered but not always necessary in chiropractic care as part of its adoption of the Choosing Wisely Campaign.

The recommendations include the admonition to not take spinal x-rays in acute low back pain patients unless there are so called Red Flags and to never take repeat x-rays to monitor progress. Teaming up with ABIME Foundation and Consumer Reports, the ACA’s President at the time David Herd DC referred to these as “unneeded or overused services” and that following these recommendations would yield the “best possible care”.

The recommendations by the ACA, which has been pushing hard to remove subluxation language from Medicare and to expand the scope of practice of chiropractic nationwide including drugs, are at odds with what is considered to be a standard of care within chiropractic.

A number of chiropractic techniques rely on x-rays in order to determine the misalignment (biomechanical) component of the vertebral subluxation and imaging (especially plain film) is the only objective, valid and reliable method to make that determination.

Further, those techniques require the taking of follow-up x-rays in order to determine whether or not the misalignment has been reduced or corrected.

Insurance companies have for decades attempted to deny reimbursement for radiographs taken for this purpose. Subluxation deniers, and some trade organizations like the medically oriented ACA, have sought to paint such practices as unprofessional and to steer consumers away from chiropractors who rely on these procedures in order to administer care.

The ACA’s recommendations regarding x-rays are at odds with several other recommendations by chiropractic trade organizations, best practices, and standard of care guidelines as well as what is taught at several chiropractic schools in the United States.

Richard J. Baron, MD, president and CEO of the ABIME Foundation referred to the ACA’s list as a way to “reduce waste and overuse in our health care system.”

ACA’s list features the following five recommendations:

  1. In the absence of red flags, do not obtain spinal imaging (X-rays) for patients with acute low-back pain during the six weeks after the onset of pain.
  2. Do not perform repeat spinal imaging to monitor patients’ progress.
  3. Avoid prolonged or ongoing use of passive or palliative physical therapy treatments (such as heat, cold, electrical stimulation and ultrasound) for low-back pain unless they support the goal(s) of an active treatment plan.
  4. Do not provide long-term pain management without psychosocial screening or assessment for possible related psychological disorders, most notably depression and anxiety.
  5. Do not prescribe lumbar supports or braces for the long-term treatment or prevention of low-back pain. 
The list is part of the Choosing Wisely® campaign, an initiative of the ABIME Foundation and Consumer Reports®, which they say encourages conversations between patients and their clinicians about what care is really necessary and appropriate.

According to the ACA's Press Release: “To date, nearly 100 health care groups have participated in the Choosing Wisely® campaign to create lists identifying specific tests and procedures that evidence indicates may not always be necessary. ACA is the first chiropractic group to join the campaign.”

The Press Release also asserts that chiropractors focus is on musculoskeletal disorders such as back pain, neck pain, pain in the joints of the arms or legs and headaches through spinal manipulation.

There is no mention of vertebral subluxation or specific adjustments to reduce or correct them in the ACA's press release.

It is highly doubtful that BCBS will remove a policy it adopted that has already been adopted and promoted by the ACA as the standard of care.

CLICK HERE for the ACA Choosing Wisely Promotional Piece

CLICK HERE for Tuck's letter to BCBS 


McCoy Press