Analysis of growth of interventional techniques in managing chronic pain in the Medicare population: a 10-year evaluation from 1997 to 2006

Laxmaiah Manchikanti, Vijay Singh, Vidyasagar Pampati, Howard S Smith, Joshua A Hirsch
Pain Physician 2009, 12 (1): 9-34

BACKGROUND: Recent reports of the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), and the Office of Inspector General (OIG) expressed significant concern with overall fiscal sustainability of Medicare and exponential increase in costs for interventional pain management techniques. Interventional pain management (IPM) is an evolving specialty amenable to multiple influences. Evaluation and isolation of appropriate factors for increasing growth patterns have not been performed.

STUDY DESIGN: Analysis of the growth of interventional techniques in managing chronic pain in Medicare beneficiaries from 1997 to 2006.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the use of all interventional techniques.

METHODS: The standard 5% national sample of the CMS carrier claim record data for 1997, 2002, and 2006 was utilized. This data set provides information on Medicare enrollees in the fee-for-service Medicare program. Current procedural technology (CPT) codes for 1997, 2002, and 2006 were used to identify the number of procedures performed each year, and trends in expenditures.

RESULTS: Interventional techniques increased significantly in Medicare beneficiaries from 1997 to 2006. Overall, there was an increase of 137% in patients utilizing IPM services with an increase of 197% in IPM services, per 100,000 Medicare beneficiaries. The majority of the increases were attributed to exponential growth in the performance of facet joint interventions. There was a 13.9-fold difference in the increase between the state with the lowest rate and the state with the highest rate in utilization patterns of interventional techniques (California 37% vs. Connecticut 514%), with an 11.6-fold difference between Florida and California (431% vs. 37% increase). In 2006, Florida showed a 12.7-fold difference compared to Hawaii with the lowest utilization rate. Hospital outpatient department (HOPD) expenses constituted the highest increase with fewer patients treated either in an ambulatory surgery center (ASC) or in-office setting. Overall HOPD payments constituted 5% of total 2006 Medicare payments, in contrast to 57% of total IPM payments, an 11.4-fold difference.

LIMITATIONS: The limitations of this study include a lack of inclusion of Medicare participants in Medicare Advantage plans and potential documentation, coding, and billing errors.

CONCLUSION: This study shows an overall increase of IPM services of 197% compared to an increase of 137% in patients utilizing IPM services from 1997 to 2006.

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