Impact of case type, length of stay, institution type, and comorbidities on Medicare diagnosis-related group reimbursement for adult spinal deformity surgery

Neurosurg Focus. 2017 Dec;43(6):E11. doi: 10.3171/2017.7.FOCUS17278.


OBJECTIVE The aim of this study was to educate medical professionals about potential financial impacts of improper diagnosis-related group (DRG) coding in adult spinal deformity (ASD) surgery. METHODS Medicare's Inpatient Prospective Payment System PC Pricer database was used to collect 2015 reimbursement data for ASD procedures from 12 hospitals. Case type, hospital type/location, number of operative levels, proper coding, length of stay, and complications/comorbidities (CCs) were analyzed for effects on reimbursement. DRGs were used to categorize cases into 3 types: 1) anterior or posterior only fusion, 2) anterior fusion with posterior percutaneous fixation with no dorsal fusion, and 3) combined anterior and posterior fixation and fusion. RESULTS Pooling institutions, cases were reimbursed the same for single-level and multilevel ASD surgery. Longer stay, from 3 to 8 days, resulted in an additional $1400 per stay. Posterior fusion was an additional $6588, while CCs increased reimbursement by approximately $13,000. Academic institutions received higher reimbursement than private institutions, i.e., approximately $14,000 (Case Types 1 and 2) and approximately $16,000 (Case Type 3). Urban institutions received higher reimbursement than suburban institutions, i.e., approximately $3000 (Case Types 1 and 2) and approximately $3500 (Case Type 3). Longer stay, from 3 to 8 days, increased reimbursement between $208 and $494 for private institutions and between $1397 and $1879 for academic institutions per stay. CONCLUSIONS Reimbursement is based on many factors not controlled by surgeons or hospitals, but proper DRG coding can significantly impact the financial health of hospitals and availability of quality patient care.

Keywords: ASD = adult spinal deformity; CC = complication/comorbidity; CFR = Code of Federal Regulations; DRG; DRG = diagnosis-related group; Medicare; PPS = Prospective Payment System; adult spinal deformity; diagnosis-related group; prospective payment system; reimbursement; spine surgery.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Congenital Abnormalities / surgery*
  • Costs and Cost Analysis / statistics & numerical data*
  • Diagnosis-Related Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Inpatients / statistics & numerical data
  • Length of Stay / economics*
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Medicare / economics*
  • United States