From time to time on Neurosurgery Blog, you will see us cross-posting or linking to items from other places that may interest our readers. Today’s post originally appeared in The Lincoln Journal Star, titled “When Insurance Fails.” In the op-ed, neurosurgeon Jeremy Hosein, MD, discusses the misuse of prior authorization, which delays care, prolongs suffering and adds significant administrative costs to health care.
Dr. Hosein relays a story of a 47-year-old female with nagging pain in her hip who was sent by her primary doctor to physical therapy and given pain medicine. When the pain persisted and caused difficulty walking, she was referred to an orthopedic surgeon who ordered an MRI. The insurance company denied the MRI, stating that the scan was not medically necessary and that she had not yet completed physical therapy. Her orthopaedic surgeon appealed the denial, and the MRI was eventually performed nearly six weeks later. Her cancer doctors said she could have avoided surgery had the tumor been discovered only weeks earlier.
According to Dr. Hosein, prior authorization is increasingly being used to deny or delay basic medical care such as blood tests, imaging and other medically necessary procedures. A 2023 Kaiser Family Foundation analysis found that 82% of appeals in Medicare Advantage resulted in overturned denials. Fortunately, some hope may be on the horizon, states Dr. Hosein. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued rules to reduce the burden of prior authorization with an automated electronic process and to add transparency to the process.
Editor’s Note: Organized neurosurgery aims to protect patients’ timely access to care by streamlining the prior authorization process. Patients experience significant barriers to medically necessary care due to prior authorization requirements for items and services that are eventually routinely approved. In the 2023 Legislative & Regulatory Agenda, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and the Congress of Neurological Surgeons outline health policy action items the neurosurgical societies plan to advance with Congress and the Biden Administration.
We hope you will share what you learn from our posts. We invite you to join the conversation on Twitter by following @Neurosurgery and using the hashtag #FixPriorAuth.