Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) payment policies for surgical operations are based on a global package concept. CMS' physician fee schedule splits the global package into preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative components of each procedure. We hypothesized that these global package component valuations were often lower than comparable evaluation and management (E&M) services and that billing for E&M services instead of the operation could often be more profitable.
Our billing database and Trauma Registry were queried for the operative procedures and hospital lengths of stay for trauma patients during the past 5 years. Determinations of preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative payments were calculated for 10-day and 90-day global packages, comparing them to CMS payments for comparable E&M codes.
Of 90-day and 10-day Current Procedural Terminology codes, 88% and 100%, respectively, do not pay for the comprehensive history and physical that trauma patients usually receive, whereas 41% and 98%, respectively, do not even meet payment levels for a simple history and physical. Of 90-day global package procedures, 70% would have generated more revenue had comprehensive daily visits been billed instead of the operation ($3,057,500 vs. $1,658,058). For 10-day global package procedures, 56% would have generated more revenue with merely problem-focused daily visits instead of the operation ($161,855 vs. $156,318).
Medicare's global surgical package underpays E&M services in trauma patients. In most cases, trauma surgeons would fare better by not billing for operations to receive higher reimbursement for E&M services that are considered "bundled" in the global package payment.
The Journal of trauma 03/2008; 64(2):374-83; discussion 383-4. DOI:10.1097/TA.0b013e31815f6f11 · 2.96 Impact Factor
Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery 01/2008; 64(2):388-389. DOI:10.1097/01.ta.0000308606.50315.39 · 1.97 Impact Factor
Physician payment by Medicare is based on a Resource-Based Relative Value Scale (RBRVS). The Correct Coding Initiative (CCI) was introduced to counter unbundling by pairing component procedures with more comprehensive procedures. We hypothesized that Medicare's rebundling process ignored relative value concepts.
CCI tables were downloaded from Medicare's website. Each comprehensive code's Relative Value Units (RVUs) were compared with component RVUs. Trauma, Burn, and Critical Care (TBC) surgeon charges were analyzed to determine whether component services had higher RVUs than the comprehensive charge.
2,990 component CPT codes had total RVUs exceeding the RVUs of their paired comprehensive codes. If the undervalued comprehensive codes had been valued at their highest component's value, the minimum additional revenue would have been $211,600.59 per surgeon per year.
A relative value scale depends upon equity in value units. Disregarding RVUs when bundling services and procedures results in severe physician underpayment.
The Journal of trauma 01/2005; 57(6):1164-72. DOI:10.1097/01.TA.0000151259.21467.FB · 2.96 Impact Factor