Evaluating reimbursement of skin radiation therapy: Technique and fractionation

Brachytherapy. 2020 Sep-Oct;19(5):700-704. doi: 10.1016/j.brachy.2020.06.005. Epub 2020 Jul 15.


Purpose: Multiple skin radiation therapy techniques exist including electron beam therapy, high-dose-rate (HDR) brachytherapy, superficial/orthovoltage, and electronic brachytherapy (EB). The purpose of this analysis was to compare reimbursement between these modalities by fractionation regimen.

Methods and materials: Reimbursement was derived from the 2020 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule by fractionation schedule or from the 2020 Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment national benchmarks. A secondary analysis evaluating incorporation of daily simulation codes was also performed to factor in coding heterogeneity.

Results: Superficial/orthovoltage was the least costly and EB the next least costly technique regardless of fractionation. When incorporating variations in coding of simulations, reimbursement with superficial/orthovoltage was still least costly, with a reduction in cost of $1,755, $2,715, $5,076, and $7,436 compared with HDR brachytherapy for 6, 10, 20, and 30 fractions, respectively, and a reduction in cost of $1,325, $2,170, $4,281, and $6,392 compared with EB. HDR brachytherapy and EB costs can increase by 63-110% based on nonrecommended variation in daily simulation billing, with superficial/orthovoltage experiencing the highest relative increase. Reimbursement per course can vary by a factor of 4.5-9.3x depending on the modality and fractionation scheme utilized.

Conclusions: Superficial/orthovoltage followed by EB were the least costly modalities with regard to reimbursement; however, costs can vary with frequency of simulation code billing. Consistency and standardization in skin radiation therapy reimbursement is needed, and case rates within a radiation oncology alternative payment model may help to minimize reimbursement heterogeneity among treatment options.

Keywords: Brachytherapy; Cost; Electron beam therapy; Electronic brachytherapy; Radiation therapy; Skin cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brachytherapy / economics
  • Brachytherapy / methods
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / radiotherapy*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / radiotherapy*
  • Dose Fractionation, Radiation*
  • Fee Schedules*
  • Humans
  • Medicare*
  • Radiotherapy / economics*
  • Radiotherapy / methods
  • Skin Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • United States