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GAO Report Confirms: Medicare Underpays for Anesthesia Services; Nurse Anesthetists Assure Seniors Access to Safe Anesthesia Care
Date:8/31/2007

PARK RIDGE, Ill., Aug. 31 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new report issued by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) confirms that Medicare anesthesia payments are 67 percent lower than anesthesia payments from private insurance coverage, and that America's Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) are essential to ensuring that America's seniors have access to safe anesthesia care for surgery, pain management, and other needed healthcare services.

"Medicare pays about 87 percent of market rates for most services, but about 34 percent for anesthesia services -- a level even lower than another government report found just five years ago," said Wanda Wilson, CRNA, Ph.D., president of the 36,000-member American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA). "While the cost effective and high quality services of CRNAs have made it possible to meet the needs of seniors, such low reimbursements are not sustainable, nor are they good for the overall health of the Medicare program. The AANA is asking the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and Congress to work together to reverse anesthesia payment cuts for all anesthesia providers and restore fair anesthesia payment. And we urge the public to join with us."

Despite the fact that Medicare payment for anesthesia services is far below comparable payments for other Medicare services, the GAO's August 27 report confirmed that the nation's CRNAs play a crucial role in ensuring that seniors have access to safe anesthesia services. "We generally found fewer anesthesiologists in localities with a greater concentration of Medicare beneficiaries," the GAO report stated. "In contrast, we generally found more CRNAs in localities with higher concentrations of Medicare beneficiaries."

In addition, the report shows that in localities where the gap between private anesthesia payments and Medicare payments are relatively small, anesthesia services are more likely to be provided by CRNAs. Conversely, in localities where the gap between private payments and Medicare payments is relatively wide, anesthesia services are less likely to be provided by CRNAs. These conclusions confirm the cost-effectiveness and efficiency of nurse anesthesia services.

"This report is confirmation that nurse anesthetists play a vital role in assuring that seniors have access to the surgical, pain management, and other healthcare services they need," said Wilson. "The report also demonstrates the importance of the Medicare payment policy, which affords reasonable cost-based anesthesia care in select rural and critical access hospitals where CRNAs are typically the sole anesthesia providers."

The report can be found at http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d07463.pdf. Highlights of the report are at http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d07463high.pdf .

About the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists

Founded in 1931 and located in Park Ridge, Ill., AANA is the professional organization for more than 36,000 nurse anesthetists. A satellite office located in Washington, D.C. handles federal government affairs issues for the profession. As advanced practice nurses, CRNAs are the hands-on providers of approximately 27 million anesthetics delivered in the United States each year. CRNAs practice in every setting where anesthesia is available and are the sole anesthesia providers in more than two-thirds of all rural hospitals. Additional information about the AANA is available on the internet at http://www.aana.com.


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SOURCE American Association of Nurse Anesthetists
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