Saturday, April 12, 2014

Anesthesia Menu Board

In this era of consumer empowerment, people are encouraged to shop around for the best prices. This includes finding the lowest prices for medical care. Unfortunately it is practically impossible for patients to get this kind of data accurately. It is highly variable with a multitude of factors that will affect the final charges. Considerations such as the contract a doctor's group or hospital has negotiated with the insurance company, geographic location of the procedure, the individual's copay and deductibles, and many, many others will ultimately affect what the patient will get in the mail.

Judging by the responses I've gotten from my post about Medicare reimbursements, it appears that most doctors are in the same predicament as their patients when it comes to pricing for our services. We ourselves have almost no clue how much the our patients will have to pay when they come to the hospital. However, with the release of the Medicare physician payments database, it can serve as a good guideline for what doctors can expect to receive for a procedure. Since Medicare is a federal program, the payments should be fairly consistent across the country for a given procedure, give or take a few percentages for geographic variability.

I've taken upon myself to compile a small list of anesthesia services that I randomly chose out of the Medicare database. I've put it into a menu board format so that it will look familiar to anybody who has ever entered a fast food restaurant.

This list is by no means comprehensive. The procedure names may sound vague but they are straight out of the database, not my own words. The prices can also be highly variable depending on things like length of a case and the ASA factor of the patient. These prices also reflect only Medicare prices. Since Medicare severely underprices anesthesia services, private insurance may pay two to three times more to anesthesiologists than what is shown here. If the patient has Medicaid, you are SOL. Medicaid usually pays even less than Medicare, averaging two thirds of Medicare's payments. My state of California pays the least amount in the whole country, with its MediCal program reimbursing only about half the normal Medicare fees.

So next time a patient asks you how much your services are going to cost, you can just grab a copy of this menu board out of your pocket and give a ball park answer. It may not be accurate down to the penny, but at least it will be closer to the actual cost than a random guess like $500 for an arterial line.

No comments:

Post a Comment