Subsidies paid for chiropractic services may be on the chopping block as the Pallister government seeks to reduce costs in any way it can to slay a massive budget deficit.
Manitoba is the only province in the country offering broad coverage for chiropractic patients.
Under a contract with the province, chiropractors bill Manitoba Health $12.10 per patient visit — with the remainder of the fee covered by the client. The subsidy is set to increase to $12.30 per visit on April 1.
A maximum of 12 visits per patient are subsidized each year. The province spent nearly $12 million on chiropractic services last year.
According to a source, the Progressive Conservative government is looking at ending the subsidy.
In a recent interview, Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen wouldn't confirm Manitoba will cease funding; however, he has made it clear that in managing overall health-care costs the province is examining services Manitoba funds that other provinces don't.
"We didn’t take anything off of the table when we were looking at ways we could find savings. And one of the criteria we're looking at that is how do we compare, looking at other provinces," the minister said.
The previous NDP government signed a five-year funding agreement with chiropractors that runs until March 31, 2020.
Asked if the deal was a barrier to ending the subsidy — or if the contract includes an escape clause — Goertzen said such considerations were premature.
"It’s too far down the road, right? There hasn’t been a decision point. A decision point doesn’t come until the budget is finalized. And it’s not finalized until the finance minister reads it in the house," he said.
Taras Luchak, executive director of the Manitoba Chiropractors Association, said his organization has no credible information to suggest the government intends to end the subsidy.
"If you are aware of something other than a rumour, we’d obviously like to hear about that," he said in an email to the Free Press.
"It would be reasonable to presume that government is considering a long list of proposed measures which they perceive to be cost saving. Which ones of those they choose to act on will likely be revealed as part of the April 11th budget process," he added.
Luchak said his organization had "received no communication" from government on the topic.
"Should the subsidy indeed be removed, our members and organization would be concerned about the loss of access of service to Manitobans," he said. "It is our long-held belief that utilization of chiropractic lessens costs in other areas of the health-care delivery system, in excess of the 'cost' related to the existing contract."
Dr. Greg Stewart, a former president of the Manitoba and Canadian chiropractic associations and an occasional media spokesman for the MCA, said while "rumours exist regarding the proposed budget cuts," he is unaware of any contact between his organization and the government on the issue.
"We have a contract that expires in 2020 and I am hopeful that the government lives up to the terms of the contract," he said.