The study revealed that when ASC payment rates are higher, physicians refer a greater share of patients to ASCs. Further, these patients have better health outcomes in terms of inpatient admission and ER visits following an outpatient procedure. It also proved that ASCs on average provide higher quality care for outpatient procedures than hospitals, and they do so at lower costs than hospitals. The study suggested that one way in which ASCs may provide superior care is through specialization, which may be driven in part by limitations insurance companies impose on which procedures they will reimburse in ASCs for providing.
The study also showed that the positive impact of ASCs on patient outcomes accrues even to the highest risk group of patients, whose care was most likely to be impacted by Medicare’s reimbursement changes.
“Our paper is the first to provide causal evidence on ASC quality, which is critical to understanding the potential welfare gains of providing a greater share of services in ASCs,” the study states. “Future research should continue to measure the effect of competition with ASCs on hospital finances as well as the quality and scope of the care that hospitals provide. Likewise, health care policies should jointly consider the more efficient, higher quality care provided in ASCs and the socially valued services that hospitals provide.”