A cross-sectional survey exploring clinician perceptions of a novel Medicaid back pain policy

Catherine J. Livingston, Mary Gray, Kate Laforge, Esther K. Choo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Oregon Medicaid (Oregon Health Plan, or OHP) implemented an innovative policy in 2016 that increased coverage of evidence-based non-pharmacologic therapies (NPT, including physical therapy, massage, chiropractic, and acupuncture) while restricting opioids, epidural steroid injections, and surgeries. The objective of this study was to compare the perspectives of clinicians who see back pain patients and can prescribe pharmacologic therapies and/or refer to NPTs and clinicians who directly provide NPT therapies affected by the policy. Methods: A cross-sectional online survey was administered to Oregon prescribing clinicians and NPT clinicians between December 2019 and February 2020. The survey was completed by 107 prescribing clinicians and 83 NPT clinicians. Results: Prescribing clinicians and NPT clinicians had only moderate levels of familiarity with core elements of the policy. Prescribing clinicians had higher levels of frustration caring for OHP patients with back pain than NPT clinicians (83 vs. 34%, p<0.001) and were less confident in their ability to provide effective care (73 vs. 85%, p =.025). Eighty-six percent of prescribing clinicians and 83% of NPT clinicians thought active NPT treatments were effective; 74 and 70% thought passive NPT treatments were effective. Forty percent of prescribing clinicians and 25% of NPT clinicians (p<0.001) thought medically-light therapies were effective, while 29% of prescribing clinicians and 10% of NPT clinicians thought medically-intensive treatments were effective (p=0.001). Prescribing clinicians thought increased access to NPTs improved outcomes, while opinions were less consistent on the impact of restricting opioid prescribing. Conclusions: Prescribing clinicians and NPT clinicians had varying perspectives of a Medicaid coverage policy to increase evidence-based back pain care. Understanding these perspectives is important for contextualizing policy effectiveness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)438-446
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2023


  • Medicaid
  • back pain
  • healthcare policies
  • non-pharmacological treatment
  • opioids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Complementary and alternative medicine


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