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Recent trends in medicare utilization and reimbursement for anterior cervical discectomy and fusion.

TitleRecent trends in medicare utilization and reimbursement for anterior cervical discectomy and fusion.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsLopez CD, Boddapati V, Lombardi JM, Sardar ZM, Dyrszka MD, Lehman RA, K Riew D
JournalSpine J
Date Published2020 11

BACKGROUND CONTEXT: Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) has been considered the gold standard for treating various cervical spine pathologies stemming from cervical degenerative disorders. While cervical artificial disc replacement has emerged as an alternative in select cases, ACDF still remains a commonly performed procedure.

PURPOSE: This study seeks to define the costs of ACDF and identify trends and variations in ACDF volume, utilization, and surgeon and hospital reimbursement rates.

STUDY DESIGN/SETTING: Retrospective analysis of patients undergoing ACDF PATIENT SAMPLE: Medicare patients undergoing ACDF between 2012 and 2017 OUTCOME MEASURES: ACDF volume, utilization rates, and surgeon/hospital reimbursement rates METHODS: This study tracked annual Medicare claims and payments to ACDF surgeons using publicly-available databases and aggregated data at the county level. Descriptive statistics and multivariate regression models were used to evaluate trends in procedure volume, utilization rates (per 10,000 Medicare beneficiaries), and reimbursement rates, and to examine associations between county-specific variables (ie, urban or rural, average household income, poverty rate, percent Medicare population, race/ethnicity demographics), and ACDF utilization and reimbursement rates.

RESULTS: A total of 264,673 ACDF surgeries were performed in the Medicare population from 2012 to 2017, with a 24.2% increase in annual procedure volume. Utilization also increased by 6.5% from 8.0 surgeries per 10,000 Medicare beneficiaries in 2012 to 8.5 in 2017. Hospital reimbursements for cervical spine fusion surgeries without complications or co-morbidities experienced nominal and inflation-adjusted increases of 9.5% and 0.7%, respectively, from $12,030.11 in 2012 to $13,167.64 in 2017. Surgeon reimbursements for single-level and multilevel ACDF each nominally decreased from $958.11 and $1,173.01, respectively, in 2012 to $950.34 and $1,138.41 in 2017 (a 0.8% and 2.9% decrease, respectively), but after adjusting for inflation, reimbursements per case fell by an average of 8.7% and 10.7%, respectively. In contrast, mean reimbursements per case for hospitals rose by 7.1% (1.5% inflation-adjusted decrease). A significant upward yearly trend in ambulatory surgical centers volume, resulted in a net increase of 184.5% between 2015 and 2017 (p<.001).

CONCLUSIONS: While ACDF volume and utilization has continued to increase since 2012, Medicare payments to hospitals and surgeons have struggled to keep up with inflation. Our study confirms that Medicare reimbursement per case continues to decrease at a disproportionate rate for surgeons, compared to hospitals. The increasing trend in procedures performed at ambulatory surgical centers shows promise for a future model of cost-efficient and value-based care.

Alternate JournalSpine J
PubMed ID32562771