Reimbursement Rates for Mohs Surgery Lag Behind Inflation

Reimbursement Rates for Mohs Surgery Lag Behind Inflation

PHOENIX — Reimbursement for dermatologic procedures has not maintained a parallel increase with the cost of healthcare delivery, according to new study findings. Medicare cuts, which are expected to continue, have exacerbated this issue even further.

“This ongoing downward trend in inflation-adjusted reimbursement may lead to delayed patient access to quality dermatology surgical care,” said lead study author Lily Park, DO, a resident in the Department of Dermatology, Larkin Community Hospital, Miami. “This trend will lead to reduced access.”

Park emphasized that reimbursement for Mohs surgery has also been further affected by the multiple surgery reduction rule, which is where Medicare pays less for the second and subsequent procedures performed during the same patient encounter. Reductions may be calculated in several ways, depending on what kind of procedure or service is involved.

“The Mohs surgery community needs to be aware of this financial trend and actively engage with healthcare policymakers to ensure the establishment of a sustainable payment infrastructure,” she said.

Park presented the study results here at the American College of Mohs Surgery (ACMS) 2024 Annual Meeting.

The landscape of healthcare economics continues to evolve and has been further complicated by rising inflation. In addition, a 2% cut to the Medicare payment conversion factor was implemented in 2023, followed by a further 3.37% cut in early 2024 — which was cut by half in March 2024, with an additional cut expected this year, she noted. “This has presented more challenges for dermatologic surgeons who are already dealing with the rising healthcare costs.”

However, despite these financial challenges, there is a lack of research on physician reimbursement for dermatologic procedures, including surgery.

Decreased Reimbursement for All Procedures

Park and colleagues analyzed trends in Medicare reimbursement rates for Mohs micrographic surgery and several other common dermatologic procedures. Beginning with 2007, they calculated the inflation-adjusted values for each year’s non-facility prices for all codes except Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes 11102 and 11104. For those two codes, inflation-adjusted prices were based on the prices in 2019, the year when the codes were first introduced. The authors estimated the inflation adjusted value for each year based on the non-facility price for 2007, and the difference between the rate of inflation and the change in physician reimbursement over time was calculated.

The six most commonly performed procedures in 2023, ranked in descending order of frequency, were identified as CPT 17000, used for the removal of actinic keratosis; CPT 11102, used for biopsy of skin; CPT 17110, used for the destruction of benign lesions such as seborrheic keratoses and warts; CPT 17311, used for the destruction of malignant lesions (including Mohs surgery); CPT 11104, which is also related to biopsy of skin; and CPT 10060, used for incision and drainage of abscess.

Their analysis showed that all CPT codes experienced a decline when compared with their inflation-adjusted values. Both Mohs surgery (17311) and benign destruction of pre-malignant lesions (17000) showed a decrease of 46% in reimbursement during an inflation-adjusted 18-year time span between 2007 and 2024.

When adjusted for inflation, Park noted, reimbursement for CPT 17311 and 17000 should actually be increased by 42% and 41% in 2024, respectively. The greatest declines in reimbursement were seen during the last 4 years.

“Future legislation, such as H.R.2474, a bill proposing inflation-based updates to physician pay, would aid us in the future if implemented,” said Park.

Dangerous Trend

The finding that payments have declined for many common dermatologic procedures since 2007 “is particularly important given the rising cost of healthcare delivery,” said Jesse M. Lewin, MD, who was asked to comment on the study results. “The administrative burden of electronic medical records, filing, and following up insurance claims has necessitated the employment of more non-physician staff to support these tasks,” he told Medscape Medical News.

“Declining reimbursement for Mohs surgery and other cancer-related procedures is a dangerous trend, as the ultimate impact will be the effect it has on quality and accessibility of skin cancer care for patients,” added Lewin, chief of Mohs micrographic and dermatologic surgery and vice chair of surgical operations at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York City. “This is an important study that reinforces physician engagement in healthcare policy and legislation to advocate for our specialty and patients.”

The study was independently supported. Park and Lewin reported no relevant financial relationships.

Roxanne Nelson is a registered nurse and an award-winning medical writer who has written for many major news outlets and is a regular contributor to Medscape Medical News.

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