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The Bright Side of ObamaCare: Scrutinizing Medical Spending on Spinal Surgery & Fusions

And More Room for Alternative Pain Therapies

The business of spinal fusion surgery for neck and low back pain has been profitable for the past decade as boomers age and their posture deteriorates. But health insurers, hospital management and policymakers – as well as some spine surgeons – are observing that this growth in the number of spinal surgeries may not be associated with medically necessary indications.

According to think tank GlobalData, Medicare estimates that more than $200m was spent on improperly indicated spinal fusion procedures, and the concern is that this number may be on the rise. Between 1996 and 2001 the number of spinal fusion procedures increased by 77%. Then, from 2002 to 2011 it shot up another 72%, from about 260,000 to 460,000.

Bottom Line: More scrutiny of back surgery is anticipated.

Silver Lining: Other approaches that show success may get more attention.

Coming soon: Potential for posture retraining, and a new study of randomized control trials looked at the cost effectiveness of chiropractic, and found that manual therapy may be more cost-effective than General Practitioners and other care.


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