Wins concessions to allow Medicare coverage of outpatient surgery procedures
Washington, DC â?? Idaho Senator Mike Crapo has won assurances from the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to expand choices for outpatient surgical procedures (with some exceptions) for both Medicare beneficiaries and providers. Crapo fought to maintain the access through provisions in the Deficit Reduction Budget Reconciliation Conference Report, which narrowly passed the U.S. Senate Wednesday morning. HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt has agreed to support greater access to ambulatory surgery centers (ASC) and plans to update the ASC list within the next 18 months.â??We must find ways to expand choices for all patients, including those on Medicare,â?? Crapo said. â??Obsolete and outdated rules at HHS have not kept pace with medical developments. Medicare should be encouraging patients to use ambulatory surgery centers whenever appropriate, not limiting patient access to ASCs. When the first center opened in the country nearly 35 years ago, patients had an alternative to hospital admission. Ambulatory surgical centers provide a cost-effective, convenient and less stressful environment for many surgical procedures. I am pleased that Secretary Leavitt has recognized the need to update Medicare and look forward to working to make certain the changes are implemented.â??In a new release from the Federated Ambulatory Surgery Association (FASA), Crapoâ??s actions were noted. â??Senator Crapo is a champion for Medicare beneficiaries having access to high-quality, cost-efficient surgical services,â?? said Jack Egnatinsky, MD, President of FASA.According to FASA, eighty percent of all surgeries in the country are done at outpatient facilities, with one out of every five being performed at an ASC. More than eight million surgeries are performed annually in the more than 4,200 surgery centers located throughout the United States. The majority of the surgeries performed at the surgical centers are in ophthalmology and gastroenterology. A recent study for FASA, which analyzed 2003 Medicare claims, estimated that procedures performed in an ASC save Medicare approximately $1.1 billion each year over what it would have cost to have the same procedures done in a hospital outpatient department.