ASA survey: Payers abruptly end anesthesia contracts, force physicians out of network

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More than 40 percent of anesthesiologists have had their payer contracts terminated in the last six months, according to an informal national survey from the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

ASA received responses to its nonscientific survey from 76 practice groups in 33 states.

Five takeaways:

1. The results provided anecdotal evidence that insurance companies often terminate anesthesia practice contracts with little or no notice, forcing anesthesiologists out of network when they don't accept significant pay cuts.

2. In the past six months, 42 percent of physician respondents had their contracts terminated.

3. Forty-three percent of respondents said insurers made "drastic payment cuts" as high as 60 percent, both mid-contract and at renewal. Some of the affected contracts were signed less than six months before the cuts.

4. Respondents mentioned UnitedHealthcare more than any other insurer. However, they said Aetna, Cigna and Blue Cross Blue Shield made similar changes.

5. Some survey respondents said insurers explicitly pointed to anticipated surprise billing legislation as the reason for the changes.

"This trend is why ASA supports a solution to surprise medical bills that does not further empower insurers to engage in these outrageous negotiating techniques — techniques that create more out-of-network physicians," the organization said in a press release. "ASA believes any solution should include a fair, market-based mechanism for physician anesthesiologists to be paid for their life-saving healthcare services, including a robust independent dispute resolution process where payment disputes between insurers and physicians can be resolved without the involvement of the patient."


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