The American Association of Ambulatory Surgery Centers is starting a lobbying campaign to stop a recommended 8% cut in Medicare reimbursements to ASCs, AAASC officials said at their annual meeting in New Orleans last week.
The organization announced it is forming a political action committee for the first time, and the organization is asking surgery centers to flood Congress with letters and calls urging rejection of the proposed cuts.
The proposal comes from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, which issued its report to Congress on March 6. It calls for cancellation of a planned inflation adjustment for ASCs in 2004 and a reduction of ASC payments that are higher than payments hospital outpatient departments get for the same procedures.
AAASC reports that the higher payments for ASCs amount to about one-third of ASC procedures, mainly in ophthalmology, pain management and gastroenterology.
MedPAC cited burgeoning growth and strong investor interest in the surgery centers, figuring that the resultant competition among ASCs would allow for payment cuts. But Mike Romansky, AAASC's lobbyist in Washington, argues that the result would be destructive price wars.
ASCs have logged an 18% growth over the past two years, and "success breeds regulation," Romansky told the meeting. "If you start making money, folks, the government will say we want more of your money."
Romansky says the lobbying campaign has hope. About three-quarters of previous MedPAC recommendations were not adopted by Congress, and because ASCs are generally less costly than hospitals, "the federal government loves ASCs," he says.