Nurse Anesthetists Association Working to Protect Patient Access to Pain Care

For Immediate Release
September 21, 2012​
For more information,
 Marlene McDowell

Park Ridge, Ill. – This September, the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) across the country are observing National Pain Awareness Month by strongly supporting a proposed Medicare rule that would ensure patient access to chronic pain management care.
For more than a decade CRNAs have provided patients access to vital chronic pain management services, especially in rural and other medically underserved areas. Patient access to chronic pain management by CRNAs came under attack in 2011 when two Medicare contractors covering 18 states abruptly began denying reimbursement to CRNAs for these services.  Their actions made it difficult for many patients to find pain relief without traveling great distances, and alternative options were simply unacceptable: suffer in pain, undergo expensive and invasive surgery, or be institutionalized.
“The AANA applauds CMS for proposing a rule that formally recognizes CRNAs as qualified chronic pain management caregivers eligible to continue receiving reimbursement directly from the Medicare program, thus ensuring patients access to desperately needed services,” said AANA President Janice Izlar, CRNA, DNAP. “CRNAs are advanced practice registered nurses who have advanced education and specialized training in anesthesia and pain management. Like their physician anesthesiologist counterparts, CRNAs are qualified healthcare professionals who provide comfort to the millions of pain patients each year.”
Chronic pain is a significant public health issue in the United States. According to a recent report from the Institute of Medicine, over 100 million Americans suffer from chronic intractable pain at a cost exceeding $600 billion per year. However, there are not enough healthcare professionals available to treat the vast number of chronic pain patients, which emphasizes the important efforts by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to protect CRNA chronic pain management services.
“Denying these patients access to CRNA pain care would further limit our already strapped healthcare delivery system, and unfairly punish countless pain patients across the country,” said Izlar.
The CMS rule is currently under review following the public comment period which ended on Sept. 4. It is anticipated that a final decision on the rule will be made before the end of the year. The AARP, National Rural Health Association, and other thought leaders have weighed in with CMS to support maintaining CRNAs’ ability to provide these essential services to pain patients.
National Pain Awareness Month is a carryover from the Decade of Pain Research and Treatment established by Congress in January 2001.  The purpose of the observation is to bring attention to the physical suffering of millions of Americans who deal with chronic pain, and to highlight the need for research that will yield new, innovative treatment options.
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