Colorado Opt-Out from Federal Anesthesia Rule Upheld
District court dismisses lawsuit filed by state's physicians over supervision of nurse anesthetists
Park Ridge, Ill. - Ruling in favor of the Colorado governor and the Colorado Association of Nurse Anesthetists (CoANA), the Denver District Court has affirmed that Colorado state law does not require nurse anesthetists to be supervised by a physician. The court also ruled that former Gov. Bill Ritter acted within his rights by opting out of the federal physician supervision requirement for these advanced practice registered nurses in September 2010.
On March 31, 2011, the court granted a motion to dismiss in favor of the governor, CoANA, the Colorado Nurses Association, and the Colorado Hospital Association, affirming Colorado’s opt-out of the federal supervision requirement in September 2010. Judge Ann Frick stated that in Colorado the administration of anesthesia by a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) is an independent nursing function and does not require physician supervision, an important requirement for seeking an opt out of the federal supervision rule from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
“We are pleased that Judge Frick has confirmed what has always been the scope of practice for Colorado’s CRNAs—that we are legally entitled to provide anesthesia care to patients without being supervised by a physician,” said Jennifer Harenberg, CRNA, president of CoANA. “We will continue to protect our members from anyone who would assert otherwise.” The judge’s ruling dismisses the lawsuit filed in September 2010 by the Colorado Society of Anesthesiologists (CSA) and the Colorado Medical Society (CMS). Judge Frick cancelled all other hearings on this matter and declared all pending motions moot as a result of her ruling.
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) are advanced practice registered nurses who personally administer approximately 32 million anesthetics to patients across the United States each year. Two recent national anesthesia studies confirmed the safety and cost-effectiveness of CRNAs, who practice in every type of setting in which anesthesia is delivered and are the sole anesthesia professionals in most rural hospitals.
The federal supervision rule, however, is not a regulatory measure designed to ensure patient safety; in reality it is a requirement that hospitals must meet in order to receive Medicare reimbursement for anesthesia services, unless a state chooses to opt out of the rule as Colorado has done.
Colorado was the 16th state to opt out of the federal rule, following Iowa, Nebraska, Idaho, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Kansas, North Dakota, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, Montana, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and California.