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New study highlights economic benefits of massage therapy, health care integration

Integrating massage therapy into medical care can effectively reduce health-care costs, according to a new study by John Dunham & Associates (JDA), a firm specializing in tax and regulatory economic impact studies.

The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) has released the JDA report in a bid to “reinforce” the relationship between massage therapy and costs of care.


June 2, 2015
By Massage Therapy Canada staff

The JDA analysis examined 2014 data from the U.S. federal Medicaid and
Medicare systems to see if patient care costs can be reduced by
providing better access and coverage for medically prescribed massage
therapy. Based on an econometric analysis that takes into account a
number of demographic and economic variables, the weighted average cost
for 19 specific types of treatments was about $64 lower per treatment in
states where massage is covered as part of Medicaid.

“The
research findings indicate that integrating massage therapy into ongoing
care has a positive outcome for patients and in many cases lowers
health-care costs,” said Jeff Smoot, AMTA president. “The information in
this study can help support a national dialogue on the detailed cost
effectiveness of massage therapy and provide a starting point for
conversations among patients and their health-care providers.”

According
to the JDA report, when the total number of treatments is analyzed
cumulatively across approximately 66 million outpatient services, the
research indicates that private insurers could save as much as $4.55
billion in costs annually, if they were to cover massage therapy
nationally. These potential savings could reach as high as $439 million
in Texas, and $426 million in California. Government third-party payers
could also see substantial savings – as much as $1.39 billion if all 46
states that do not cover massage under their Medicaid programs were to
do so.

For individuals, the benefits of massage therapy accrue
when taken as part of a comprehensive treatment system, and the data
indicate that visiting a massage therapist in place of additional hours
at the hospital or doctor’s office, or substituting massage in place of
some other treatment, is where the savings truly emerge, the AMTA said.

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Medical
costs have been rising faster than inflation, in part because the
number of health practitioners is limited. According to John Dunham,
managing partner at JDA, “While a model of this type cannot predict
causality, economic theory suggests that the savings are the result of
the benefits of increasing the supply of practitioners to meet the
demands of the health-care marketplace. By covering massage therapy as
part of a system of integrative care, the potential pool of
practitioners would grow, adding as many as 300,000 massage therapists
and approximately 16,760 massage therapy firms.”

In integrated
care models, health professionals and institutions that provide services
to patients work together to share information and coordinate care. The
JDA research report shows that the practice of allowing massage therapy
as insured coverage is correlated, for most treatments examined, with
lower coverage costs when controlling for demographic and economic
factors. The channels through which increased coverage may result in
reduced costs are based on a straightforward assessment of supply and
demand in the medical treatment market, the AMTA said.

A growing
number of medical centers throughout the U.S. now fully integrate
massage therapy into patient care, including the Mayo Clinic, MD
Anderson Cancer Center, Duke Integrative Medicine program, Cleveland
Clinic and the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute.


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