Neurosurgery: A profession or a technical trade?

The American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), 11 years ago converted its Internal Revenue Code (IRC) tax status from a 501 (c) (3) to a 501 (c) (6) entity. By doing so, the professional medical association, now a trade association, was able to more aggressively lobby, support political campaigns, and pursue business opportunities for its members. In the following decade, major changes were seen in the practice of neurosurgery, especially as it relates to spine surgery. With the majority of neurosurgeons limiting themselves to a spine practice, an increased number of spinal procedures, most noted in the Medicare population, was recorded. For example, a 15-fold increase in complex spinal fusions for spinal stenosis was seen between 2002 and 2007. While the basis for this increase was not readily apparent, it was associated with a reduction in reimbursement per case of about 50%, fueling the belief that the increase in complexity of surgery permitted recovery of fees in complex cases to off-set the loss of reimbursement for simpler cases. Considering the growth of spinal surgery within neurosurgery, and decrease funding for spine surgery, in the future there may be too many surgeons chasing too few dollars. There appears to be within neurosurgery a crisis developing where future manpower projections do not realistically match future anticipated specialty1

  1. Watts C. Neurosurgery: A profession or a technical trade? Surg Neurol .2014 Nov 29;5:168. doi: 10.4103/2152-7806.145932. eCollection 2014. PubMed PMID:25558426. []

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