To evaluate monetary trends in government (Medicare) reimbursement rates for 20 commonly used orthopedic trauma surgical procedures over a 20-year period.
The Physician Fee Schedule Look-Up Tool from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services was queried for the 20 common Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes in orthopaedic trauma, and reimbursement data were extracted. All monetary data were adjusted for inflation to 2020 US dollars (USD) using changes to the US Consumer Price Index. Both the average annual and the total percentage change in reimbursement and in Relative Value Units were calculated for all included procedures.
After adjusting for inflation, the average reimbursement for all procedures decreased by 30.0% from 2000 to 2020. Total Relative Value Units during this time increased by 4.4% on average. Procedures about the foot and ankle demonstrated the greatest decrease in the mean adjusted reimbursement at −42.6%, whereas procedures about the shoulder and upper extremity demonstrated the smallest mean decrease at 23.7% during the study period. From 2000 to 2020, the adjusted reimbursement rate for all included procedures decreased by an average of 1.5% each year.
To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to comprehensively evaluate trends in procedural Medicare reimbursement for orthopaedic trauma. When adjusted for inflation, Medicare reimbursement for included procedures has steadily decreased from 2000 to 2020. Increased awareness and consideration of these trends will be important for policy makers, hospitals, and surgeons to assure continued access to meaningful surgical orthopaedic trauma care in the United States.