Researchers at the University of California-Berkeley Nicholas C. Petris Center on Health Care Markets and Consumer Welfare reported the findings in a study released Wednesday, the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association said.
UC adjunct Professor Brent Fulton said his team's analysis found ASCs -- which provide same-day care for surgical procedures formerly available only in hospitals -- "offer a win-win for policymakers and patients" in the search for "ways to shore up Medicare's finances and reduce healthcare spending."
"Encouraging patients to seek the care they need in ASCs throughout the Medicare system should be an easy decision," Fulton said. "Indeed, depending on the future policy environment, the savings generated by ASCs could exceed our $57.6 billion estimate."
Medicare reimburses ASCs at about 58 percent of the rate of reimbursement for hospital outpatient departments for similar surgical procedures.
The researchers said the lower reimbursement rate for ASCs also means patients pay smaller coinsurance amounts in ASCs.
ASCA Chief Executive Officer William Prentice said the amount of savings through ASCs is limited by stalled growth in the number of centers, while some centers are being purchased and converted to hospital outpatient departments "to take advantage of the higher fees that can be charged there."
The ASCA called on Congress and the Obama administration to "ensure that Medicare payments for ASC services are sufficient so that ASCs can continue to be the lower-cost alternative for outpatient surgical care for America's seniors."