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  • Oregon Medicaid Will Shift to Physical Therapy, Other Nonsurgical Approaches as First-Choice Treatments for Back Pain

    As part of a change aimed at improving what one state official described as a "really stupid" health care policy, Medicaid recipients in Oregon will be able to access physical therapy and other nonsurgical and nondrug approaches to back pain as the priority treatment beginning in 2016.

    The Bend, Oregon, Bulletin reports that the Oregon Health Plan (OHP)—the state's Medicaid program—will apply the change to all types of back conditions, and will restrict surgery to cases of spinal stenosis and "certain types of radiating pain."

    According to the Bulletin report, the impetus for the change was based in part on evidence that points to the efficacy of nonsurgical, nondrug approaches, and in part on troubling statistics that showed that of the 8% of OHP recipients who sought treatment for back pain, over half received prescriptions for narcotics.

    “We were hearing really loud and clear … our current state of affairs is really stupid,” said Ariel Smits, medical director for the Health Evidence Review Commission, in the Bulletin story. Backers of the new plan hope that a reduction in narcotic use will partly offset what they expect to be increased costs associated with the change.

    OHP members will be allowed to see 1 or more providers, in any combination, up to 30 times a year for back pain. Physical therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic, cognitive behavioral therapy, osteopathic manipulation, and occupational therapy are included in the list of priority treatments.


    • It's about time somebody wised up ~ Thank you Oregon Medicaid!

      Posted by Kathleen Flagge on 8/5/2015 6:54 PM

    • This is great news! As an OPTA member and Oregon PT I'm excited for this new change!

      Posted by Claire mysliwy on 8/5/2015 7:34 PM

    • Finally some one got sense!!! Let us treat the whole patient and have their active participation in managing their back pain. So tired of seeing patients drugged up with muscle relaxers and narcotic pain killers.

      Posted by Rita Shapiro on 8/5/2015 7:41 PM

    • Holy Cow! This is huge. Our local providers will be overjoyed to learn of this development.

      Posted by Lynn Johnson on 8/5/2015 8:09 PM

    • Finally someone gets it right and halts the needless transfer of wealth at the expense of the well - being of patients. However I am disappointed that they don't specify what therapy is covered and that may just give the therapists a permit to "steal"or do unproven treatments.

      Posted by Ed Scott PT, DPT, OCS on 8/5/2015 9:40 PM

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