Inflation is expected to drop later this year: Will ASCs catch a break? 

U.S. inflation, which recently hit a 40-year apex of 8.5 percent, is expected to cool later this year and into 2023, the Congressional Budget Office said recently, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The projections came after the Federal Reserve raised interest rates  to combat inflation, which is projected to bring an economic slowdown and possibly a recession, according to the Journal. 

ASCs have been feeling the effects of soaring inflation costs, as labor, supply and equipment costs aren't correlating to increases in reimbursement rates, many administrators say. 

"From equipment to supplies to staffing, expenses continue to rise while reimbursements are stagnant," Amy Noble, practice administrator for the Center for Pain Control in Wyomissing, Pa., told Becker's. "With supply shortages, we run into situations where a simple box of 10 surgical dressings can run upward of $1,000 compared to normal pricing of $200."

As inflation is expected to cool, so will economic growth, according to The Journal. The CBO "forecasts slowing growth, with inflation-adjusted gross domestic product estimated to expand 3.1 percent in the fourth quarter from the previous year, compared with 5.5 percent in 2021," the Journal reports.

The agency expects inflation at 4.7 percent in the fourth quarter. This would reflect an ease of inflation, but would still far exceed pre-pandemic levels. 

Some leaders predicted ASCs will still come out on top. 

Warren Buffett, billionaire CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, made a projection at the company's annual shareholders meeting that bodes well for many ASCs. 

"The best thing you can do is to be exceptionally good at something. Whatever abilities you have can't be taken away from you. They can't actually be inflated away from you," Mr. Buffett said in a CNBC report. "The best investment by far is anything that develops yourself, and it's not taxed at all."

Mr. Buffett's comments are good news for ASCs, especially centers that have perfected a limited number of procedures. Single-specialty ASCs that perform the same procedure are often better and more efficient than large hospital organizations where surgical teams rotate between specialties daily.

Despite soaring operation costs, surgery centers are poised for growth, especially if they provide a great patient experience and data to show insurers the benefit of encouraging patients to use an ASC.

ASCs are a low-cost, high-quality site of service, and as payers see more opportunity in moving procedures to the outpatient setting, ASCs stand to win. 

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