State Farm v. Chiropractors

Posted On: November 30, 2011 by Ronald V. Miller, Jr.

In State Farm v. Cavoto, a Pennsylvania appellate court decided a battle between two parties that are always at odds, State Farm and chiropractors. Usually, the skirmishes between these parties are fought by proxy but, in this case they faced off directly.

Essentially, State Farm got fed up with paying chiropractors who were billing for adjunctive procedures performed by support staff who were not licensed. Particularly, and arguably understandably, annoying to State Farm was unlicensed people applying hot and cold packs, turning on and off mechanical devices, using a traction machine and assisting in therapeutic exercises. I’m sure that most infuriating to State Farm is paying for someone without medical training to apply hot and cold packs. If you can’t see why State Farm takes exception to that -regardless of how you view the merits of it – you may have had one drink too many from the plaintiffs’ attorney Kool-Aid.

The appellate court didn’t look at the case quite that way. Instead, the court applied the law that appears to allow unlicensed staff members to provide some treatment. The court reasoned that the real medical care was the decision to give the hot or cold packs and for how long, not who applied them. Similarly, the court reasoned, most elements of applying electrical muscle stimulation, ultrasound, and the like do not require specialized skills, as long as there is a chiropractor making the decisions about the details and how the therapy should be applied. Accordingly, the court remanded the case back to the trial court to “make more specialized findings and determine whether any of the procedures allegedly performed by unlicensed personnel required formal chiropractic education or training, including further inquiry by the court as to the scope of those procedures.”


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