Medicare would save more than $1.1 billion annually if it set uniform rates for hospital-based ambulatory surgery and freestanding surgery centers, according to HHS Inspector General Janet Rehnquist, and Rehnquist said she would urge the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to ask Congress for such a change. Hospitals would suffer the bulk of the payment reduction. Bringing certain hospital outpatient payments into parity with the surgery center rates would save $1 billion; reducing certain surgery center rates would account for the remaining $100 million, Rehnquist said. "In the absence of a compelling reason for a payment differential, the amount Medicare pays for a procedure should be based on the service and not the setting," she told attendees at the 6th Annual National Congress on Health Care Compliance in Washington. A review of 453 procedure codes for services that could be performed in either setting found reimbursement discrepancies of more than 200%. About $466 million and $233 million in Medicare savings would come from revising reimbursement for eye procedures and endoscopies, respectively. -- by Mark Taylor
HHS may equalize hospital, surgery center rates
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