Issues in health care: interventional pain management at the crossroads

Laxmaiah Manchikanti, Joshua A Hirsch
Pain Physician 2007, 10 (2): 261-84
Emerging strategies in health care are extremely important for interventional pain physicians, as well as with the payors in various categories. While most Americans, including the US Congress and Administration, are looking for ways to provide affordable health care, the process of transformation and emerging health care strategies are troubling for physicians in general, and interventional pain physicians in particular. With the new Congress, only new issues rather than absolute solutions seem to emerge. Interventional pain physicians will continue to face the very same issues in the coming years that they have faced in previous years including increasing national health care spending, physician payment reform, ambulatory surgery center reform, and pay for performance. The national health expenditure data continue to extend the spending pattern that has characterized the 21st century, with US health spending continuing to outpace inflation and accounting for a growing share of the national economy. Health care spending in 2005 was $2.0 trillion or $6,697 per person and represented 16% of the gross domestic product. In 2005, Medicare spending reached $342 billion, while Medicaid spending was $315 billion. Physician and clinical services occupied approximately 21% of all US health care spending in 2005, reaching $421.2 billion. Overall, health spending in the US is expected to double to $4.1 trillion by 2016, then consuming 20% of the nation's gross domestic product, up from the current 16%. It is predicted that by 2016 the government will be paying 48.7% of the nation's health care bill, up from 38% in 1970 and 40% in 1990. The Medicare Physician Payment system based on the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula continues to be a major issue for physicians. The Congressional Budget Office has projected budget implications of change in the SGR mechanism, with consideration for allowing payment rates to increase by the amount of medical inflation, costing Medicare an estimated $218 billion from 2007 to 2016. Changes in the physician fee schedule in 2006 using the bottom-up methodology have resulted in significant cuts for interventional pain physicians performing procedures in an office setting. Medicaid physician payments and ambulatory surgery center payments for interventional techniques are proposed to be reduced substantially by Medicare and Medicaid, while hospital payments remain at stable levels with increases.

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