Medicare Physician Payments:

Medical Settings and Safety of Endoscopic Procedures

GAO-03-179: Published: Oct 18, 2002. Publicly Released: Oct 18, 2002.

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Every year millions of Americans covered by Medicare undergo endoscopic medical procedures in a variety of health care settings ranging from physicians' offices to hospitals. These invasive procedures call for the use of a lighted, flexible instrument and are used for screening and treating disease. Although some of these procedures can be performed while the patient is fully awake, most require some form of sedation and are usually provided in health care facilities such as hospitals or ambulatory surgical centers (ASC). Some physician specialty societies have expressed concern that Medicare's reimbursement policies may offer a financial incentive to physicians to perform endoscopic procedures in their offices and that these procedures may be less safe because physicians' offices are less closely regulated and therefore there is less oversight of the quality of care. For the 20 procedures reviewed, there was no evidence to suggest that there in any difference in the level of safety of gastroenterological and urological endoscopic procedures performed on Medicare beneficiaries in either physicians' offices or health care facilities, such as hospitals and ASC's. There was also no evidence found to suggest that the resource-based site-of-service payment differential has caused physicians to conduct a greater proportion of gastroenterological or urological endoscopic procedures in their offices for Medicare beneficiaries. If Medicare coverage for the office procedures in the study were terminated, few access problems would occur in most of the country because physicians perform the vast majority of the procedures that were studied in health care facilities.

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