Local Politics

Black's Plea Pains Pro-Chiropractor Legislation

Posted March 8, 2007 4:55 p.m. EST
Updated March 8, 2007 6:54 p.m. EST

— Some lawmakers want a law favoring chiropractors repealed in the wake of former House Speaker Jim Black's admission that he accepted illegal cash contributions from chiropractors.

Black inserted a special provision in the 2005 budget that put insurance co-payments for chiropractors on a par with medical doctors. Instead of paying $50 to visit a chiropractor, patients had to pay only $15 or $20 for an office visit under the new law.

When he pleaded guilty last month to a federal charge of accepting an illegal gratuity in connection with more than $25,000 in cash given to him by three chiropractors between 2002 and 2005, legislative watchdogs immediately questioned the industry's influence in the co-payment law.

"We need to look at how that was put into law. We're not saying it was good or bad, but maybe the process could have been better. So, we're looking at a possible repeal," House Majority Leader Hugh Holliman said.

Bill to repeal the co-payment legislation have been filed in both the House and Senate.

Chiropractors maintain the legislation is needed, but they acknowledge that Black's legal case has damaged their profession.

"There's going to be a little tainted opinion, I'm afraid, for the entire chiropractic profession," chiropractor Richard Armstrong said. "It's a good piece of legislation. It gives patients freedom to choose."

Helen Deere, who sought treatment from Armstrong after being injured in a car accident, said insurance shouldn't discriminate between physicians and chiropractors as long as a doctor can stop the pain.

"It's unfair to choose one thing -- one part of the body -- and say we'll treat that, and then we won't treat the other," Deere said.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, the state's largest insurer, said lower co-payments could drive up premiums for everyone else, especially considering the frequency of chiropractic treatments.

Chiropractors disagree, and they're urging patients to help them keep the new co-payment level.

"Repealing the legislation is going to create, in my opinion, unfair bias or influence on consumers," Armstrong said.