How is your anesthesia bill calculated?
An anesthesiologist’s bill depends on several factors, including:
- The duration of the anesthesia care
- The complexity of the surgical procedure
- The insurance status of the patient
Let’s look at each of these factors in turn:
1. The duration of the anesthesia care. Anesthesia provider bills are calculated by a simple formula:
Amount of Bill = (Number of Base Units + Number of Time Units) X the dollar value of a Unit.
Every anesthesia company assigns a monetary value to an anesthesia “Unit.” A “Unit” is a 15-minute length of time of anesthesia service. (The price of an anesthesia Unit varies. More on this topic later).
The total amount of an anesthesia bill depends largely on the duration of the anesthesia service, which depends on the duration of the surgery.
Anesthesia time begins when the anesthesia provider starts attending to the patient in the pre-operative area, and ends when the anesthesia provider transfers care to the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) nurse or to the intensive care unit (ICU) nurse following the surgery.
For most surgeries, a typical timeline involves:
10-15 minutes of anesthesia exam in the pre-operative area,
5 minutes of time transporting the patient to the operating room,
5-10 minutes time inducing anesthesia,
10–40 minutes of time positioning, prepping, and draping the patient,
the entire surgical duration,
5-15 minutes of time to wake the patient up,
5-10 minutes of time to transport the patient to the PACU or ICU,
and 5-10 minutes time to sign the patient over to the nurse’s care in the PACU or ICU.
In the PACU, the anesthesiologist is responsible for the patient’s vital signs, pain control, nausea therapy, and the timing of the patient’s discharge from the PACU, even though the anesthesia billing time concluded when he or she signed the patient’s care to the PACU nurse. Typically the anesthesia provider returns to the pre-operative area to meet the next patient at this time, and the billing time for the next patient commences when the anesthesia provider begins attending to the next patient.
2. The complexity of the scheduled surgical procedure. The Base Unit value for any anesthetic varies with the complexity of the scheduled surgery. The Base Unit value can be as low as 3 Units for a simple procedure such as a finger or a toe surgery, or as high as 25 Units for open-heart surgery. The Base Unit values are cataloged in a publication called the ASA (American Society of Anesthesiologists) Relative Value Guide. The Base Unit value reflects the degree of work and risk involved in the anesthetic management for each type of surgery.
3. The insurance status of the patient. The United States government sets a cap on how much Medicare and Medicaid patients can be billed. The dollar value per anesthesia Unit is severely discounted for Medicare and Medicaid patients to a number as low as one-fourth to one-fifth the amount a non-Medicare or Medicaid patient is billed.
THE PRICE OF AN ANESTHESIA UNIT: The price of an anesthesia Unit is set by the billing anesthesiologist and his or her anesthesia company. The price tends to be higher in major metropolitan centers, lower in rural areas, and lowest for Medicare patients. The price of an anesthesia Unit may vary from as high as $140/Unit in a major metropolitan area to a low of $20/Unit for a Medicare or a Medicaid patient.
EXAMPLE: Let’s look at a sample bill for an elbow surgery. The Base Unit value for elbow surgery is 3 Units. The surgery time was 1 hour, but the total anesthesia time from pre-operative area to the PACU sign out was 1 hour and 45 minutes. One hour and 45 minutes equals 7 Time Units. Let’s assume a Unit value price of $90/Unit.
Using the formula above,
Amount of Bill = (Number of Base Units + Number of Time Units) X the dollar value of a Unit.
Amount of Bill = (3 Units + 7 Units) X $90/Unit = 10 X 90 = $900.
Will the anesthesia provider collect $900? Most likely not. Insurance companies negotiate with physicians, and the result of such negotiations may result in significant discounts paid on Unit values compared to billed rates. If the anesthesia group has a signed contract with an insurance company, the agreed reimbursement may be $60/Unit, and the maximal allowed bill would be $600.
In addition, if your insurance coverage requires you to pay for 20% of the bill, the insurance company may only pay 80%, or $480, and you will be expected to pay $120. If the anesthesiology company does not have a contract with the insurance provider, the insurance company will reimburse an out-of-network amount, usually less than the full $900, and you may be responsible for the balance of the bill (unless the anesthesia company is willing to discount the bill under these circumstances).
There are advantages of growing old. If you’re a Medicare patient, your anesthesia bill may total only $200:
(3 Units + 7 Units) X $20/Unit = 10 X 20 = $200.
COSMETIC SURGERY: Insurance companies do not pay for plastic surgeries such as liposuction, breast implants, or facelifts. Patients must pay the surgeon, operating room, and anesthesia bills in advance. Most anesthesiologists discount their customary rates in return for cash prepayment.
THE FUTURE: The nature of anesthesia billing may change in the future to embrace a concept known as “bundled payments.” Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, outlines provisions for bundled payments to hospitals rather than the traditional fee-for-service reimbursements described above. In a bundled payment model, the medical team will receive a lump sum from the government (or from an insurance company) for a surgical procedure. The medical center and physicians will negotiate and decide how to divide up the money between the surgeon, the anesthesiologist, and to the hospital (the hospital share will cover nurse salaries, technician salaries, supplies, and the overhead to run the hospital).
To date there is little data to support the advantage of bundled payments. The government hopes to save money by limiting what it pays out per procedure. Time will tell how prevalent this reimbursement model will be in the future of American healthcare economics.
When you buy retail goods, prices are available prior to purchase. With medical bills, you rarely know what the price of your medical care will be until you receive the bill weeks afterward. This is likely to change. There is momentum moving toward transparent pricing of medical fees, including listing of physician fees and facility fees prior to patient care. In the future you may have access to physician, hospital, and surgery center pricing to assist you in making your medical care choices.
SUMMARY: Your anesthesia bill will depend on how complex a surgery you are scheduled for, how long it takes to complete the procedure, and what kind of insurance coverage you have. Armed with this information, you may choose to contact your surgeon, the anesthesia company he or she works with, and your insurance company prior to your surgery to understand what your anesthesia bill is likely to be.
Introducing …, THE DOCTOR AND MR. DYLAN, Dr. Novak’s debut novel, a legal mystery. Publication date September 9, 2014 by Pegasus Books.
The first four chapters are available for free at Amazon. Read them and you’ll be hooked! To reach the Amazon webpage, click on the book image below:
Stanford professor Dr. Nico Antone leaves the wife he hates and the job he loves to return to Hibbing, Minnesota where he spent his childhood. He believes his son’s best chance to get accepted into a prestigious college is to graduate at the top of his class in this remote Midwestern town. His son becomes a small town hero and academic star, while Dr. Antone befriends Bobby Dylan, a deranged anesthetist who renamed and reinvented himself as a younger version of the iconic rock legend who grew up in Hibbing. An operating room death rocks their world, and Dr. Antone’s family and his relationship to Mr. Dylan are forever changed.
Equal parts legal thriller and medical thriller, The Doctor and Mr. Dylan examines the dark side of relationships between a doctor and his wife, a father and his son, and a man and his best friend. Set in a rural Northern Minnesota world reminiscent of the Coen brothers’ Fargo, The Doctor and Mr. Dylan details scenes of family crises, operating room mishaps, and courtroom confrontation, and concludes in a final twist that will leave readers questioning what is of value in the world we live in.
Bang-Up Debut Novel, November 16, 2014
By Norm Goldman “Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures”
This part legal and medical thriller is structured with a mixed bag of situations involving relationships, jealousy, evil, lies, courtroom drama, operating room mishaps as well as moments that engender conflicting and unexpected outcomes. Noteworthy is that as the suspense builds readers will become eager to uncover the truth involving a mishap concerning Nico and a surgical procedure that has unanticipated ramifications.
This is a bang-up debut from a writer who understands timing and is able to deliver hairpin turns, particularly involving the courtroom drama,that you would expect from a book of this genre.
TwinCities.com PIONEER PRESS Entertainment
by Mary Ann Grossman, Entertainment Editor, St. Paul Pioneer Press email@example.com, January 4, 2015
“The Doctor & Mr. Dylan” by Rick Novak (Pegasus Books, $17.50)
Dr. Nico Antone doesn’t hide the fact he hates his wife, but he says he didn’t kill her during an operation. The authorities think otherwise and his trial is the riveting suspense in this novel that is part medical thriller, part legal thriller, part exploration of family relationships.
Nico is an anesthesiologist (as is the author) who leaves his wife, their plush life in California and his job at Stanford to move to his hometown of Hibbing so their son, Johnny, has a better chance of getting into a prestigious college. Johnny hates the idea of moving to a small, cold town, but he’s popular from the first day in school. Nico doesn’t do so well. He’s envied by Bobby, an anesthetist who’s jealous of the better-educated Nico. But it’s hard to take Bobby seriously, since he thinks he’s the young Bob Dylan and lives in the house where Bobby Zimmerman grew up. To complicate matters, Nico is attracted to the mother of the young woman his son is dating. When the two teens get in trouble, Nico’s furious, rich wife comes to Minnesota and needs an emergency operation that puts her on Nico’s operating table.
Novak grew up in Hibbing, where he worked in the iron ore mines and played on the U.S. Junior Men’s Curling championship teams of 1974 and ’75. After graduating from Carleton College, he earned a medical degree at the University of Chicago and spent 30-plus years at Stanford Hospital, where he was an associate professor of anesthesia and Deputy Chief of the Anesthesia Department. His courtroom scenes are based on his experiences as an expert witness.
The Physician’s Late-Night Reading List
Two Pritzker alums pen captivating tales
By Brooke E. O’Neill, University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, editir, Medicine on the Midway Magazine
For most physicians, writing — patient notes, case histories, perhaps journal articles — is part of the job. But for anesthesiologist-novelist Rick Novak, MD’80, and neurosurgeon-memoirist Moris Senegor, MD’82, it’s a second career that consumes early morning hours long before they step into the OR.
Fans of John Grisham will find a kindred spirit in Novak, whose fast-paced medical thriller, The Doctor & Mr. Dylan (Pegasus Books, 2014), transports readers to rural Northern Minnesota, where an accomplished physician and a deranged anesthetist who thinks he’s rock legend Bob Dylan see their worlds collide in the most unexpected ways.
Delivering real-life twists and turns — and a love letter to the Bay Area — is Senegor’s Dogmeat: A Memoir of Love and Neurosurgery in San Francisco (Xlibris, 2014), a coming-of-age tale chronicling the author’s away rotation with renowned neurosurgeon Charles Wilson, MD, at the University of California, San Francisco. Brutally honest, it spares no details of a time Senegor, who also served as a resident under the University of Chicago’s famed neurosurgery chair Sean Mullan, MD, describes as “one of the biggest failures of my life.”
One a vividly imagined nail-biter, the other an intimate peek into the surgical suite, both books deliver an ample dose of intensity and drama.
The Doctor and Mr. Dylan (Pegasus Books, 2014) by Rick Novak, MD’80
“I thought it was a novel way of killing someone,” said Rick Novak, deputy chief of anesthesiology at Stanford University, describing the imagined hospital death that was the genesis of his dark thriller The Doctor & Mr. Dylan. A huge Bob Dylan fan — the rock icon was born in Novak’s hometown of Hibbing, Minnesota, where the story takes place — he then dreamed up a possible culprit: a psychotic anesthetist who thinks he’s Dylan.
From there, the words flowed. “I would write whenever I was with my laptop and had a free moment: in mornings, in evenings, in gaps between cases,” said Novak, who also blogs about anesthesia topics. “I don’t sleep much.”
After finishing the manuscript — one year to write, another to edit — came the challenge of finding a publisher. “In anesthesia, I’m an expert,” Novak said. “In the literary world, I’m an unknown.” After 207 responses of “no, thanks” or no answer at all, he landed an agent. Two months later, she informed him that Pegasus Books had bought his debut novel.
“I started crying,” Novak admits. “I have a third grader and at the time the big word the class was learning was ‘perseverance.’ That was it exactly.”
Dr. Joseph Andresen, Editor, Santa Clara County Medical Association Medical Bulletin, from the January/February 2015 issue:
BOOK REVIEW “THE DOCTOR AND MR. DYLAN”
This past month, Dr. Rick Novak handed me a hardbound copy of his debut novel The Doctor and Mr. Dylan. Rick and I go way back. It was my first week of residency at Stanford when we first met. A newcomer to the operating room, all the smells and sounds were foreign to me despite my previous three years in the hospital as an internal medicine resident. Rick, a soft spoken Minnesotan at heart, in his second year of residency, took me under his wing and guided me through those first few bewildering months, sharing his experience and wisdom freely.
Fast-forward 30 years later. Dr. Rick Novak, a novel and mystery author? This was new to me as I sat down and opened the first page of The Doctor and Mr. Dylan. I have to admit that I didn’t know what to expect. Few books highlight a physician/anesthesiologist as a protagonist, and few books feature a SCCMA member as a physician/author. However, a medical-mystery theme novel wasn’t at the top of my must read list. With my 50-hour workweek, living and breathing medicine, imagining more emotional stress and drama was the furthest thing from my mind. However, three days later, as I turned the last page, and read the last few words. “life is a series of choices. I stuck my forefinger into the crook of the steering wheel, spun it hard to the left and …” This completed my 72-hour journey of and free moments I had, completely immersed in this story of life’s disappointments, human imperfections, and simple joys.
Rick, I can’t wait for your next book. Bravo!
Hibbingite writes twisted medical tale
HIBBING — Readers who are looking for a whodunit that will keep them up all night are in for a treat.
Hibbing native Rick Novak recently released his first book “The Doctor and Mr. Dylan,” a fiction set in Hibbing that merges anesthesia complications, a tumultuous marriage and the legend of Bob Dylan.
“The dialogue is sometimes funny, and there are lots of plot twists,” he said.
Novak said the book will not only entertain readers, but teach them about anesthesiology, Dylanology, the stressful race for elite college admission, and life on the Iron Range.
“The book is very conversational and streamlined,” he said. “I try to write as one would tell a story out loud.”
Novak said “The Doctor and Mr. Dylan” took him three years to perfect. He is currently working on his second book.
This review is from: The Doctor and Mr. Dylan (Kindle Edition)
Just finished Dr. Novak’s delightful novel. I sincerely enjoyed his honest take about the pressures and values that exist within California’s Silicon Valley. He also brought the North Country of Minnesota to life with memorable characters and a twisting, addictive plot. Buried beneath the fun and funny story is a deeper message about how to best care for your kids, your relationships and yourself. Very well written and highly recommended.
Learn more about Rick Novak’s fiction writing at rick novak.com by clicking on the picture below: