Why staffing is anesthesia's biggest problem

Medicare's average anesthesia rate for 2023 is down 5.5% from 2019 as inflation continues to rise nationwide, according to an analysis by Coronis Health. Another analysis, from VMG Health, found that Medicare reimbursements for anesthesia services decreased from $22.2730 per unit in 2019 to $21.1249 in 2023 under CMS' final rule. 

While many advocacy groups cite reimbursement woes as the biggest problem in anesthesia, some physicians feel differently. Many are facing major staffing issues that have caused hundreds of canceled procedures in the last year. 

"Today's shortage of anesthesia providers has been compounding for years and has turned into an incredible challenge for all," Andrew Lovewell, CEO of Columbia (Mo.) Orthopaedic Group, told Becker's. "Not only is it difficult to find anesthesia coverage, finding coverage that understands and embraces the priorities and workflow of an ASC are seemingly impossible."

Jack Dillon, CEO of Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Anesthesia Practice Consultants, told Becker's that reimbursements are not the biggest issue in anesthesiology right now. 

"While declining reimbursement is an issue, the larger day-to-day issue is the need for additional anesthesia coverage across the health system," he said. "Whether it is additional sites within current hospital locations or new surgical centers, the need for anesthesia continues to rise. This is creating more competition within the market and increasing staffing costs." 

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