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Columnist: We Should Protect Patient Access to CRNAs


By EndoNurse guest columnist Christine Zambricki, CRNA, MA, FAAN

WASHINGTON—In less than two weeks, officials at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will begin to sort through public comments on their proposal to protect patient access to the crucial pain-management treatments provided by Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs).

CMS's decision will affect millions. Roughly a third of Americans―including many Medicare beneficiaries―are afflicted with chronic pain. CRNAs are crucial to ensuring the availability of timely, effective pain-care treatment

CMS must therefore affirm its proposed rule to guarantee coverage of the care delivered by CRNAs, thereby safeguarding patient access to comprehensive pain care. If the agency doesn't, then millions of Americans will needlessly suffer.

Patient access to CRNAs came under attack last year, when two Medicare contractors refused to reimburse nurse anesthetists for the healthcare services they provided unless a physician was present. Consequently, Medicare beneficiaries who had previously relied on CRNAs for their treatment suddenly lost access to them.

The contractors' decision affected patients in 18 states―primarily in the rural western part of the country, where CRNAs are often the only provider of pain care. In many rural counties across the United States, CRNAs provide 100 percent of the pain treatments received by patients.

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