At least a dozen ambulatory surgery centers in five states opened to the public on Tuesday, partly to discuss a provision to limit ASC reimbursements in the House version of the Medicare reform bill, the Federated Ambulatory Surgery Association reports.
The House provision, which is not part of the Senate Medicare bill, would reduce the annual inflation update for ASCs to 2% below the Consumer Price Index, says Kathy Bryant, executive director of the Alexandria, Va.-based trade group.
Bryant says a conference committee for the Senate and House has been hammering out a final Medicare reform bill, but it is not expected to deal with the ASC provision until September or October.
She says she hopes that the tours will stir media awareness of the house provision, adding that she has already given one interview generated by the tours. She adds that the open houses are generally meant to raise public awareness of ASCs.
"Many people are unaware that they have a choice when planning surgery," Bryant says. "We must create better-informed healthcare consumers."
Of FASA's 1,100 members, Bryant says about 100 ASCs in states such as California, Florida, Maryland, Ohio and Pennsylvania expressed interest in holding the open houses, but she does not know how many actually did so yesterday.
More FASA members plan to host open houses later in the year, she adds.
Bryant says it has been difficult for ASCs to schedule open houses because the tours require that the host ASC suspends or strictly limits operations for half a day, she adds.
FASA has also been contacting House members directly in an effort to get the payment provision removed from the House Medicare bill.
In a recent letter to Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and a member of the conference committee, FASA says Medicare reimbursements for ACSs lag behind those for hospital inpatient services and outpatient departments.
FASA points to a 2001 study finding that the gap between commercial and Medicare rates for ASCs is much higher than for other settings.
While commercial rates ranged from 107% to 121% of Medicare for hospital inpatient services and 140% to 148% of Medicare for hospital outpatient departments, ASC rates were between 225% and 233% of Medicare, FASA wrote.
Meanwhile, FASA reports that neither the House nor Senate versions of the Medicare bill contain a recommendation by the Medicare Payment Advisory Committee to cap ASC payments at hospital outpatient department rates.