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Medicare reimbursement change meant to save money has opposite effect
Date:2/8/2010

e there was an increase in patient referrals for outpatient surgeries, it was not sufficient enough to account for the increased use of these procedures. There was, however, a rise in the redundant use of outpatient surgery on patients who also underwent hospital-based surgery for the same condition. Also, while the number of outpatient procedures increased, the likelihood that a procedure would lead to a bladder cancer diagnosis declined. "We believe these trends are disturbing as they may reflect both diagnostic and therapeutic over-utilization of office-based endoscopic bladder surgery," the authors wrote.

The reasons for this surge in use of outpatient procedures are unknown but might include improvements in office-based equipment for surgery, improved physician comfort and skill with these operations, and the incentive of receiving increased financial reimbursement. Whatever the cause, these findings suggest that Medicare financial incentives for the outpatient treatment of bladder cancer may actually increase overall costs without improving care.

Dr. Hemani noted that the study's results illustrate a need for clinical guidelines for these office-based surgeries, as well as a need for policy measures that ensure accountability for physicians who perform them.

"Given the ongoing healthcare debate in Congress regarding reforming the current system, one wonders if many of the changes currently being proposed in Washington might not have similar effects to what we are seeing in this one isolated example," said David Penson, MD, MPH, of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, who was not involved with the study but wrote an accompanying editorial. "Sometimes, policies have the exact opposite effect of what was intended," he cautioned.


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Contact: David Sampson
david.sampson@cancer.org
American Cancer Society
Source:Eurekalert

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