New Jersey Appeals Court Limits Payments to Ambulatory Surgery Centers

In a decision issued January 29, 2019 a New Jersey Appellate Court has ruled that even though Medicare includes a CPT code and pays for specific treatment rendered in a ambulatory surgery center this does not obligate a New Jersey auto insurer to make payment for medical treatment billed under such code. At issue were bills submitted to an auto insurance carrier for treatment allegedly rendered in an out-patient facility to the claimant’s low back. The medical fees in dispute involved invoices from the facility not the doctor.

In this case, the facility, Specialty Surgery Center of North Brunswick, sough $32,500 in reimbursement from an automobile insurer for CPT code 63030, which refers to “lower back disc surgery.” The New Jersey Appeals Court ruled that the CPT code provided for reimbursement of physicians only, and not to ambulatory surgery centers. The court further found that despite Medicare’s position on reimbursement for that code, the surgery center was not entitled to payment under New Jersey’s personal injury protection (“PIP”) fee schedule promulgated by the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance for automobile claims.

While not mentioning the implications for medical provider claims in New Jersey workers’ compensation cases, this case stands for the proposition that where an ambulatory surgery center is seeking payment for fees that greatly exceed the normal reimbursement and justify those claims by referring to Medicare or other jurisdictional rules, the workers’ compensation carrier can argue that New Jersey’s PIP fee schedule should be relied upon by the workers’ compensation judge as a reasonable estimate of costs (where the surgery center accepts PIP payments). Case discussed: New Jersey Manufacturers Ins. Co. v. Specialty Surgical Center of North Brunswick, A-0319-17T1, A -0388-17T1 (N.J. App. Div. Jan. 29, 2019).

Greg Lois is the managing partner of LOIS LLC and dedicates his practice to defending employers and carriers in New York and New Jersey workers' compensation claims. Greg is the author of a popular series of "Handbooks" on workers' compensation, and is the co-author of the 2016 & 2017 Lexis-Nexis New Jersey Workers' Compensation Practice Guide. Greg can be reached at 201-880-7213 or glois@loisllc.com