January Marks 10-Year Anniversary of Landmark Ensuring Montanans Access to Safe, Cost-Effective Anesthesia Care

For Immediate Release
January 27, 2014
For more information
Contact: Marlene McDowell
Park Ridge, Ill. – Ten years ago this month Montana became the 12th state to opt out of the federal physician supervision requirement for Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs). The landmark decision by then Governor Judy Martz, which was supported by the Montana Association of Nurse Anesthetists (MTANA), ensured Montana access to safe, cost-effective anesthesia care, particularly in rural and other medically underserved areas of the state.
In January 2004, less than three years after the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published its anesthesia care rule granting state governors the ability to opt out of the supervision requirement, Gov. Martz sent a letter to CMS informing the agency that “it is in the best interest of Montana’s citizens.”  The opt-out, which was supported by both the state Board of Medical Examiners and Board of Nursing, is effective immediately.
“This was a great decision for the residents of Montana 10 years ago and continues to be today,” said Alison Carter, CRNA, MS, president of the Montana Association of Nurse Anesthetists.  “In Montana, CRNAs have long provided safe anesthesia care to patients of all ages, for all types of procedures, and in every setting in which anesthesia care is delivered.”

Here’s what CRNAs have contributed to Montana over the past 10 years:

  • 51 percent of our nurse anesthetists provide pain management services.
  • 97 percent of all Montana counties with surgical or obstetrical services depend on CRNAs.
  • Nurse anesthetists are the sole anesthesia providers in 24 rural Montana counties; this accounts for 77 percent of Montana counties with surgical or obstetrical services.
  • 80 percent of all Montana hospitals rely on independent CRNA practice to ensure the provision of obstetrical, surgical, pain management, and trauma stabilization services.   
Two recent studies have confirmed that Martz showed tremendous foresight in opting out of the physician supervision requirement. The study titled “No Harm Found When Nurse Anesthetists Work Without Supervision by Physicians,” conducted by RTI International and published in the August 2010 issue of Health Affairs, examined nearly 500,000 individual cases involving anesthesia and confirmed what previous studies have shown: CRNAs provide safe, high-quality care that is the same with or without physician supervision.
The other study, titled “Cost Effectiveness Analysis of Anesthesia Providers,” was conducted by Virginia-based The Lewin Group and published in the May/June 2010 issue of the Journal of Nursing Economic$. This study considered the different anesthesia delivery models in use in the United States today, and it showed that CRNAs acting as the sole anesthesia provider cost 25 percent less than the second lowest cost model. On the other end of the cost scale, the model in which one anesthesiologist supervises one CRNA is the least cost-efficient model. The researchers also confirmed there is no research to indicate that CRNAs and physician anesthesiologists aren’t equally safe providers.
The results of the Lewin study were particularly compelling for people living in rural and other areas of the United States where anesthesiologists often choose not to practice for economic reasons. The safe, cost-effective anesthesia care provided by nurse anesthetists has been a mainstay in these areas for more than 100 years, ensuring millions of patients access to surgical, obstetrical, trauma stabilization, and diagnostic procedures. 
Since 2001, 17 states have opted out of the federal physician supervision requirement for nurse anesthetists: Iowa, Nebraska, Idaho, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Kansas, North Dakota, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, South Dakota, Kentucky, Wisconsin, California, and Colorado.