Trends in Physician Reimbursement for Spinal Procedures Since 2010

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Abstract

Study Design.

Retrospective cohort study.

Objective.

To identify trends in spinal procedure reimbursement in our practice since 2010.

Summary of Background Data.

In an uncertain healthcare climate with continuous reform, trends in physician reimbursement are unclear. Market forces of supply and demand, legislation imposing penalties for quality measures, local competition, and geographic location have the potential to affect reimbursement. An emphasis on quality-of-care and cost reduction is placed on providers and insurers. In a high-cost area such as spine surgery, it is unknown what the reimbursement trends have been over the last 7 years of major healthcare reforms.

Methods.

We collected payments received data for the 20 most commonly billed Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes for spinal surgery from January 2010 to December 2016. Payments were adjusted for inflation using the Consumer Price Index for Medical Care in the Northeastern United States. Insurers were separated into four groups: Medicare, Medicaid, Private Insurance, and Workers Compensation and No Fault (WC/NF). Using a weighted average to adjust for variation in procedures performed, average payments were trended over time. Average payments were trended by insurance group averaged by CPT code.

Results.

After adjusting for inflation, average overall payments for spinal claims from 2010 to 2016 increased 13.6%. Average reimbursement declined 1.9% from 2010 to 2013 and rose 16.8% from 2014 to 2016. Average Medicaid payments increased 150.1% since 2010 whereas average Medicare payments rose 4.9%. Average reimbursement from private insurers and WC/NF claims decreased 16.2% and 8.5%, respectively, from 2010 to 2013; increasing 14.2% and 12.5%, respectively, from 2014 to 2016. From 2010 to 2016, reimbursement for private insurance decreased 9.3% and increased 8.2% for WC/NF claims.

Conclusion.

Since 2010, inflation-adjusted reimbursement for spinal procedures increased in our practice. There was a decline from 2010 to 2013. Increases occurred from 2014 to 2016 across all insurers. Medicaid payments more than doubled since 2010.

Conclusion.

Level of Evidence: 3

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