GAO report on hospital and ASC costs is delayed

Surgery centers to be surveyed about finances

Although the Government Accountability Office (GAO) was required to issue a report by Jan. 1, 2005, on the costs, charges, and payments for performing surgery in ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) and hospital outpatient departments, it appears the report will not be finished earlier than the fourth quarter of this year, according to the American Association of Ambulatory Surgery Centers (AAASC).

Under the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act, the GAO is required to make recommendations to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) regarding the rebasing of ASC facility fees. CMS is required to implement a new ASC rebasing system by Jan. 1, 2008.

The GAO is expected to sample several hundred Medicare-certified ASCs with a survey form designed to capture facility-specific procedure volume and cost information, according to AAASC. It appears the survey form will be several pages long, the association says.

"In other words, it is not expected to be anywhere near as extensive as the survey instrument your facility might have completed as part of CMS’ rebasing effort in 1994-95," the association says.

Surveyed centers will be asked questions concerning facility operations and specific procedures performed, and they will be requested to provide the facility’s financial statements. The information will be used for the calculation of ASC costs (not profits), and individual facilities will not be identified in the report, AAASC emphasizes. "Moreover, GAO will keep all proprietary information submitted confidential," it says.

The surveying will begin in late winter or early spring of 2005, AAASC predicts.