Author(s): Manchikanti L, Benyamin RM, Falco FJ, Hirsch JA
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Abstract Continuing rise in health care costs in the United States, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and a multitude of other regulations impact providers in 2013. Despite federal spending slowing in the past 2 years, the Board of Medicare Trustees believes that cost savings are only achievable if health care providers are able to realize productivity improvements at a quicker pace than experienced historically. Consequently, the re-engineering of U.S. health care and bridging of the divide between health and health care have been proposed beyond affordable care. Thus, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) envisions alignment of Medicare payment systems to eliminate variable rates for the same ambulatory services provided to similar patients in different settings, such as the physician's office, hospital outpatient departments (HOPDs), and ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs). MedPAC believes that if the same service can be safely provided in different settings, a prudent purchaser should not pay more for that service in one setting than in another. MedPAC is also concerned that payment variations across settings encourage arrangements among providers that result in care being provided in high paid settings. MedPAC recommends that payment rates be based on the resources needed to treat patients in the most efficient setting, adjusting for differences in patient severity, to the extent the severity differences affect costs. MedPAC has analyzed the costs of evaluation and management (E&M) services and the differences between providing them in a HOPD setting compared to a physician office setting, echocardiography services, and multiple services provided in ASCs and HOPDs. MedPAC has shown that for an established patient office visit (CPT 99213) provided in a free-standing physician's office, the program pays the physician 70\% less than in HOPD setting with a payment for physician practice of $72.50 versus $123.38 for HOPD setting. Similarly, for a Level II echocardiogram, HOPD costs 141\% more for the same service than a free-standing office ($188.31 versus $452.89). For interventional techniques, Medicare payments vary from physician office to HOPD setting, with $211.96 in an office setting, $407.28 in ASC setting, and $655.62 in HOPD for procedures such as epidural injections. The MedPAC proposal for changing HOPD payment rates for services would reduce program spending and result in beneficiary cost sharing by $900 million in one year. On average, hospitals' overall Medicare revenue will decline by 0.6\% and HOPD revenue would fall by 2.7\%. Further, MedPAC provided a specific example that aligning payment rates between HOPDs and free-standing offices only for cardiac imaging services would reduce program spending and beneficiary cost sharing by $500 million in one year. In estimating the savings that would be realized by equalizing payment rates between HOPDs and ASCs for certain ambulatory surgical procedures, MedPAC have shown potential Medicare program spending and beneficiary cost savings to be about $590 million per year. The impact of the proposed policies that are discussed in this manuscript would result in savings of approximately $1.5 billion per year for Medicare. MedPAC also has recommended a stop-loss policy that would limit the loss of Medicare revenue for those hospitals.
This article was published in Pain Physician
and referenced in International Journal of Waste Resources