Current Issue - March/April 2011 - Vol 14 Issue 2


  1. 2011;14;E177-E215Ambulatory Surgery Centers and Interventional Techniques: A Look at Long-Term Survival
    Health Policy Review
    Allan T. Parr, MD, Laxmaiah Manchikanti, MD, Vijay Singh, MD, and Bert Fellows, MA.

With health care expenditures skyrocketing, coupled with pervasive quality deficits, pressures to provide better and more proficient care continue to shape the landscape of the U.S. health care system. Payers, both federal and private, have laid out several initiatives designed to curtail costs, including value-based reimbursement programs, cost-shifting expenses to the consumer, reducing reimbursements for physicians, steering health care to more efficient settings, and finally affordable health care reform.

Consequently, one of the major aspects in the expansion of health care for improving quality and reducing the costs is surgical services. Nearly 57 million outpatient procedures are performed annually in the United States, 14 million of which occur in elderly patients. Increasing use of these minor, yet common, procedures contributes to rising health care expenditures. Once exclusive within hospitals, more and more outpatient procedures are being performed in freestanding ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs), physician offices, visits to which have increased over 300% during the past decade. Concurrent with this growing demand, the number of ASCs has more than doubled since the 1990s, with more than 5,000 facilities currently in operation nationwide. Further, total surgical center ASC payments have increased from $1.2 billion in 1999 to $3.2 billion in 2009, a 167% increase. On the same lines, growth and expenditures for hospital outpatient department (HOPD) services and office procedures also have been evident at similar levels.

Recent surveys have illustrated on overall annual growth per capita in Medicare allowed ASC services of pain management of 23%, with 27% growth seen in ASCs and 16% of the growth seen in HOPD. Further, the proportion of interventional pain management which was 4% of Medicare ASC spending in 2000 has increase to 10% in 2007. Thus, interventional pain management as an evolving specialty is one of the most commonly performed procedures in ASC settings apart from HOPDs and well-equipped offices.

In June 1998, the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA), proposed an ASC rule in which at least 60% of interventional procedures were eliminated from ASCs and the remaining 40% faced substantial cuts in payments. Following the publication of this rule, based on public comments and demand, Congress intervened and delayed implementation of the rule for several years. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published its proposed outpatient prospective system for ASCs in 2006, setting ASC payments at 62% of HOPD payments. Following multiple changes, the rule was incorporated with a 4-year transition formula which ended in 2010, with full effect taking effect in 2011 with ASCs reimbursed at 57% of HOPD payments.

Thus, the landscape of interventional pain management in ambulatory surgery centers has been constantly changing with declining reimbursements, issues of fraud and abuse, and ever-increasing regulations.