Procedural reimbursement for spine surgery has changed drastically over the past 20 years. A comprehensive understanding of these trends is important as major changes in reimbursement models of spine surgery continue to evolve within various spine specialties as well as broader national healthcare policy. In this study the authors evaluated the monetary trends in Medicare reimbursement rates for the 15 most common spinal surgery procedures from 2000 to 2021.
The National Surgery Quality Improvement Project database (2019) was queried to determine the 15 most commonly performed spine surgery procedures. The Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes for each of these procedures were obtained from the Physician Fee Schedule Look-Up Tool from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and comprehensive reimbursement data for each code were extracted. Changes in Medicare reimbursement rates were calculated and averaged for each procedure as both raw percent changes and percent changes adjusted for inflation to 2021 US dollars (USD) based on the consumer price index (CPI). The adjusted R2 value, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR), and both the average annual and the total percent change in reimbursement were calculated based on these adjusted trends for all included procedures.
After adjustment for inflation, average reimbursement for all procedures decreased by 33.8% from 2000 to 2021. The greatest mean decrease was seen in anterior cervical arthrodesis (−38.7%), while the smallest mean decrease was in vertebral body excision (−17.1%). From 2000 to 2021, the adjusted reimbursement rate for all included procedures decreased by an average of 1.9% each year, with an average R2 value of 0.69.
This is the first study to evaluate monetary trends in Medicare reimbursement for spine surgery procedures. After adjusting for inflation, Medicare reimbursement for the 15 most commonly performed spine procedures has steadily decreased from 2000 to 2021. Increased awareness of these trends and the forces driving them will be critical in the coming years as negotiations regarding reimbursement models continue to unfold. Greater understanding of spine surgery reimbursement among policy makers, hospitals, and surgeons will be important to ensure continued access to quality surgical spine care in the United States.