Manitoba government cuts chiropractic coverage by $4.8M

Manitoba is cutting $4.8 million from its annual funding for chiropractic care in the province and doctors say that's going to require a big adjustment.

Funding for patients cut from 12 visits per year to 7 as province scales funding back

The Manitoba Chiropractors Association says funding cuts by the governing Progressive Conservative Party buck the national trend. (Albina Glisic/Shutterstock)

Manitoba is cutting $4.8 million from its annual funding for chiropractic care in the province and doctors say that's going to require a big adjustment.

"Without question, this change will reduce the access of Manitobans seeking chiropractic care each year and will especially hurt those who need our care the most — seniors, low-income and working Manitobans," said Dr. Perry Taylor, president of the Manitoba Chiropractors Association.

The new funding formula, which took effect June 1, cut funding for patients from 12 visits per year to seven.

As well, the amount of coverage per visit has been reduced from $12.30 to $8.29. That will, however, increase to $10 per visit in April 1, 2018.

Manitoba is the only province in the country that universally covers a portion of chiropractic treatments for all residents. That coverage cost the province $11.9 million in 2016. Alberta and Ontario delisted chiropractic treatments in 2004 and 2009, respectively.

But the chiropractors' association says the move to cut funding goes against the Canada-wide effort to reduce emergency room wait times and fight the opioid crisis.

"Chiropractors are leaders in drug-free, non-surgical management of back pain who treat over 170,000 Manitobans a year," said Taylor.

"Providing quality care in our clinics keeps back pain patients out of ERs and away from opioids — a trend that should be encouraged to help ease the burden on taxpayers and Manitoba families."

The province cannot comment on the matter due to election rules in Manitoba in the lead-up to the June 13 byelection in the Point Douglas riding.

The government has previously announced its intention to achieve over $250 million in savings from Manitoba Health.

"We do not think this is a cost-saver, let's be blunt about that," MCA spokesman Greg Stewart said about the chiropractic funding cuts.
Dr. Greg Stewart says chiropractic care offers a lower-cost treatment for patients who would otherwise visit emergency rooms. He says it also offers patients an alternative to pain medications, like opioids. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

"Patients who can't afford access to chiropractic care, they are going to go elsewhere. So this will drive patients into emergency rooms and this will increase drug costs [covered by the province].

"Not allowing proper access, especially to acute pain, that's really the driver of the opioid crisis. The number one reason for opioids being prescribed in Canada is for chronic back pain.

"Chiropractic patients basically do not end up on opioids. I can say that with quite an amount of certainty."

There are more than 280 chiropractors with clinics located throughout the province, according to the MCA.

"We're the only province in Canada where the government is still supporting chiropractic care and we're very thankful for that," Stewart said.

"However, we think we should have a larger part to play [in health care] and I don't think this will meet the long-term objectives [for savings set out by the province]."

Full coverage of health cuts in Manitoba