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J Altern Complement Med 16:411-417.
Department of Health Services, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA
OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this analysis was to compare health care expenditures between insured patients with back pain, fibromyalgia syndrome, or menopause symptoms who used complementary and alternative medical (CAM) providers for some of their care to a matched group of patients who did not use any CAM care. Insurance coverage was equivalent for both conventional and CAM providers.
DESIGN: Insurance claims data for 2000-2003 from Washington State, which mandates coverage of CAM providers, were analyzed. CAM-using patients were matched to CAM-nonusing patients based on age group, gender, index medical condition, overall disease burden, and prior-year expenditures.
RESULTS: Both unadjusted tests and linear regression models indicated that CAM users had lower average expenditures than nonusers. (Unadjusted: $3,797 versus $4,153, p = 0.0001; beta from linear regression -$367 for CAM users.) CAM users had higher outpatient expenditures that which were offset by lower inpatient and imaging expenditures. The largest difference was seen in the patients with the heaviest disease burdens among whom CAM users averaged $1,420 less than nonusers, p < 0.0001, which more than offset slightly higher average expenditures of $158 among CAM users with lower disease burdens.
CONCLUSIONS: This analysis indicates that among insured patients with back pain, fibromyalgia, and menopause symptoms, after minimizing selection bias by matching patients who use CAM providers to those who do not, those who use CAM will have lower insurance expenditures than those who do not use CAM.
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