Anesthesiologists Campaign Against Nurse Pain Payments

06 Sep

Last month, The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) launched a nationwide campaign opposing the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) proposal to pay nurse anesthetists for chronic pain service. The crux of the opposition is that nurse anesthetists are not equipped with the necessary formal education or training in chronic pain management.

“Even in the hands of specially trained physicians, chronic pain procedures are inherently dangerous due to the anatomy and delicate structure of the spine and nerves upon which chronic pain interventions are performed,” said ASA President Jerry A. Cohen, M.D. “Current restrictions on nurse anesthetists providing these services are appropriate and necessary in the interest of patient safety.”

In addition to the health risks, the ASA says there is also the risk of extensive and costly medical interventions. They argue the point that anesthesiologists and other doctors are better equipped to provide pain management care and minimize these risks due to their education and training, and are able to prescribe appropriate medication therapies in the process. 

Chronic pain services will often include opioids, where specialized physician training is required to minimize errors and prevent potentially lethal side effects.

“Using scarce Medicare dollars to pay nurse anesthetists to perform complicated pain service procedures unnecessarily puts patients at risk,” says Cohen. “Patients who require anesthesia or relief from pain deserve the safest and highest quality of care.”