Alternative Treatment Accounts For One-Third Of All Treatment For Automobile Accident Injuries

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Approximately one out of every three auto injury insurance claimants nationwide receives some form of alternative medical treatment (See Note 1), and charges from alternative- treatment providers account for approximately one-third of the total charges from all types of medical providers. Much of the recent growth in the utilization of alternative treatment in auto injury claims has involved non- chiropractic treatment, primarily acupuncture and massage therapy, although chiropractic treatment remains the most common form of alternative treatment.

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The report, Alternative Medical Treatment in Auto Injury Insurance Claims, analyzes treatment utilization and cost data for more than 72,000 auto injury insurance claims closed with payment in 2002. Thirty-two insurance companies, representing 58 percent of the private passenger auto insurance market in the United States, participated in the study.

Utilization of chiropractic and other types of alternative treatment varied widely across states even though the injuries involved were similar. In Minnesota, for example, 64 percent of all bodily injury liability claimants and 42 percent of all no-fault claimants received alternative treatment. In Michigan, another no-fault state, 14 percent of bodily injury liability and no-fault claimants received alternative treatment. In traditional tort liability states, alternative treatment utilization also varied widely, from 17 percent in Indiana, to 52 percent in California, for bodily injury liability claims.

"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," notes Elizabeth A. Sprinkel, senior vice president of the IRC. "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."

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