TRICARE, one of the nation’s largest insurers wants its members to get physical therapy for back pain. They think that treating back pain with PT is so important that they’re willing to waive the cost to their members. That’s a huge deal. When’s the last time you remember an insurance company covering the entire cost of anything?
“Non-drug treatments like physical therapy” are the first treatment recommended for back pain.
Unfortunately, many providers don’t follow this, and treatments are often recommended based on opinion rather than research.
This means insurance companies and patients often end up spending a lot of money on outcomes that are less than stellar.
They might give you medication, recommend rest, some stretches, send you for x-rays or an MRI.
Next will likely be a referral to a specialist like an orthopedic surgeon.
Chances are you won’t be having surgery right away, so the specialist will either refer you to PT or back to your PCP where you’ll end up with a PT referral.
The path will look different for each person, but the end result is usually the same – multiple failed treatments, imaging you probably didn’t need, and a delay of weeks or months to get to a physical therapist.
Intel ran a similar program with their employees, getting people with back pain to a PT within 48 hours. Previously it took about 19 days for people to get to a PT. With the earlier access, patients completed their care in 21 days, compared with 52 days previously, and costs dropped between 10 and 30%. Intel also found more satisfaction with care and a faster return to work.
Do not delay your recovery by worrying about the cost. Take the first step to reduce your pain.