HHS commits to expanding ASC service coverage

January 5, 2006

Over the next 2 years, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will undertake two key initiatives to expand Medicare beneficiary access to services provided by ambulatory surgery centers, the American Association of Ambulatory Surgery Centers reported.

Over the next 2 years, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will undertake two key initiatives to expand Medicare beneficiary access to services provided by ambulatory surgery centers, the American Association of Ambulatory Surgery Centers reported.

First, the ASC list will be updated by July 1, 2007, as required by law. Second, concurrent with the 2008 implementation of the new ASC payment system, HHS intends to propose that ASCs be permitted to perform and receive facility payment for all "outpatient surgical procedures (except those that the department finds would pose a significant safety risk when performed in an ASC, or would require an overnight stay) on the ASC list," according to a letter transmitted from HHS Secretary Michael O. Leavitt to Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID).

"Obsolete and outdated rules at HHS have not kept pace with medical developments," Crapo said in a statement. "Medicare should be encouraging patients to use ambulatory surgery centers whenever appropriate, not limiting patient access to ASCs. I am pleased that Secretary Leavitt has recognized the need to update Medicare and look forward to working to make certain the changes are implemented."