Estimating hourly anaesthetic and surgical reimbursement from private medical insurers' benefit maxima: implications for pricing services and for incentives.
Stubbs D., Ward ME., Pandit JJ.
While some speculation surrounds annual private practice incomes of anaesthetists, little is known of the hours of work needed to generate any presumed income (the hourly rate). The benefit maxima of five private medical insurers are published in fee schedules and data on the duration of common operations are now also known. In this study we combined these to generate estimates for hourly rates of reimbursement across 78 common operations in eight surgical subspecialties, for anaesthetists and surgeons. We expected to find significant differences between insurers as a result of market competition, and we expected differences between anaesthetists and surgeons. The median (IQR [range]) rate of reimbursement for anaesthetists was pound167 (132-211 [68-570]).h(-1) with significant variation across subspecialties (p < 0.001); for example, cardiac surgery was best reimbursed at pound283 (257-308 [229-398]).h(-1) and orthopaedics the least at pound146 (133-159 [81-246]).h(-1). Contrary to expectations, the rates of payment to anaesthetists by insurers were similar (p > 0.17). Patterns of reimbursement for surgeons were similar to those for anaesthetists, except that surgeons were reimbursed at about twice the rate. We conclude there is a confluence of insurer reimbursement levels and we discuss potential implications of this finding. Our results also have implications for how incentives between the NHS and private practice, or within a private practice group, might be optimally managed.