Equity in Medicaid Reimbursement for Otolaryngologists

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Abstract

Objective

To study state Medicaid reimbursement rates for inpatient and outpatient otolaryngology services and to compare with federal Medicare benchmarks.

Study Design

State and federal database query.

Setting

Not applicable.

Methods

Based on Medicare claims data, 26 of the most common Current Procedural Terminology codes reimbursed to otolaryngologists were selected and the payments recorded. These were further divided into outpatient and operative services. Medicaid payment schemes were queried for the same services in 49 states and Washington, DC. The difference in Medicaid and Medicare payment in dollars and percentage was determined and the reimbursement per relative value unit calculated. Medicaid reimbursement differences (by dollar amount and by percentage) were qualified as a shortfall or excess as compared with the Medicare benchmark.

Results

Marked differences in Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement exist for all services provided by otolaryngologists, most commonly as a substantial shortfall. The Medicaid shortfall varied in amount among states, and great variability in reimbursement exists within and between operative and outpatient services. Operative services were more likely than outpatient services to have a greater Medicaid shortfall. Shortfalls and excesses were not consistent among procedures or states.

Conclusions

The variation in Medicaid payment models reflects marked differences in the value of the same work provided by otolaryngologists—in many cases, far less than federal benchmarks. These results question the fairness of the Medicaid reimbursement scheme in otolaryngology, with potential serious implications on access to care for this underserved patient population.

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