A study on alternative medical treatments has determined that in addition to chiropractic care, acupuncture and massage therapy are increasingly being utilized by auto injury insurance claimants. While chiropractic treatment remains the most utilized alternative treatment, the overall increase in these other alternative treatments means that they are showing up in as many as one out of every three auto injury insurance claims.
The results were published by the Insurance Research Council (IRC) in a report called, “Alternative Medical Treatment in Auto Injury Insurance Claims.” Researchers looked at treatment utilization and cost data for more than 72,000 auto injury insurance claims closed with a payment in 2002. Thirty-two insurance companies participated in the study, which accounts for 58 percent of the private passenger auto insurance market.
The prevalence of alternative treatments, however, isn’t reflected in equally in all states, a fact researchers found disturbing. Whether injuries took place in a tort-based state or a no-fault state, the alternative treatment percentages varied drastically, despite the fact that injuries were often very similar.
For example, Minnesota reported that 64 percent of all bodily injury liability claimants and 42 percent of all no-fault claimants received alternative treatment. But in Michigan, another no-fault state, only 14 percent of bodily injury liability and no-fault claimants received alternative treatment. In traditional tort liability states, alternative treatment utilization varied just as much. Indiana reported 17 percent of claimants utilized alternative treatments for bodily injury liability claims, while Californian patients came in at 52 percent.
What do these wide fluctuations mean? Elizabeth Sprinkel, IRC’s senior vice president, speculated on the findings of the report.
“The wide variation in the utilization of alternative treatment raises important questions about the appropriateness and efficacy of treatment for auto injuries in some states,” said Sprinkel, in a statement. “These findings suggest either widespread disagreement about how to treat auto injuries or a failure in some states to adhere to existing treatment standards. Whether you are a believer in alternative treatment or a skeptic, these findings are troubling.”