December 19, 2019
ASA Response to Health Affairs Study on Surprise Medical Bills
On December 15, ASA responded to a new study published on the Health Affairs website
regarding out-of-network billing, or surprise medical bills. The article references physician anesthesiologists and Medicare and commercial payment rates for anesthesia services.
In response to the release of the study, ASA issued a press release
affirming our position on surprise medical bills. ASA supports protecting patients from surprise medical bills and has endorsed H.R. 3502, the Protecting Patients from Surprise Medical Bills Act, a bill authored by Reps. Raul Ruiz, M.D. and Phil Roe, M.D. The “Ruiz-Roe” plan is modeled on the New York state surprise medical bill law - a law that this article recognizes as successful. ASA and physician anesthesiologists are eager to be part of the solution to surprise medical bills.
ASA continues its work to address what we believe to be the fundamental flaws in this and similar articles. Specifically, ASA believes that this study relies upon two demonstratively false narratives; 1) that Medicare payment rates represent appropriate payment levels and can therefore be used as a mechanism to determine the appropriateness of commercial payment rates; and 2) that Medicare payments are consistent across all physician services. As ASA has highlighted in the past, there is no empirical evidence that Medicare rates, which have been revised and modified for decades for federal government budgetary reasons, are any more appropriate than commercial payment rates. Nor is there evidence of equality of ratios between Medicare rates for orthopaedic surgery procedures and anesthesia procedures, as examined in the study.