Background: The Texas Medicaid Program (Medicaid) defines billable time for labor analgesia as face-to-face time; therefore, anesthesia providers determine billed time. The authors' goal was to determine the influence of anesthesia providers on labor analgesia costs billed to Medicaid. Methods: Under the Freedom of Information Act, Medicaid provided data on claims paid for 6 months in 2001 for labor analgesia administered during the course of a vaginal delivery. Claims were either time based (codes 00946 or 00955) or a flat fee (codes 26311 or 26319). Using modifiers, the authors grouped time-based claims as either anesthesiologist group or certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) group. The cost to Medicaid was based on the 2001 fee schedule. The conversion factor was $18.21 per American Society of Anesthesiologists unit. The flat-fee reimbursement was $152.50. CRNA services were paid at 85% of the fee schedule. Average time per time claim, percent of providers with more than 4 h of billed time, and cost per claim were determined for each group. Providers with more than 120 claims (> 20 claims/month) were considered high-volume. Results: The database included 21,378 claims (anesthesiologist group: 12,698 claims from 219 providers; CRNA group: 8,680 claims from 117 providers). For time-based claims, the average time per case was significantly higher in the CRNA group (146 min) than in the anesthesiologist group (105 min). The CRNA group cost to Medicaid ($225.11) was 19% more per claim than the anesthesiologist group ($189.26). The difference in cost per claim was greater among high-volume providers-$213.10 for the CRNA group versus $168.76 for the anesthesiologist group. If a flat-fee program were instituted using the average cost per claim for all groups ($203.81), the Texas Medicaid program would save more than $500,000 annually. Conclusions: The costs of labor analgesia billed to Texas Medicaid were 19% to 26% less per patient when provided by anesthesiologists than by CRNAs, despite lower per-unit reimbursement of CRNAs.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine