Medicare Physician Payments

Last week, with little fanfare, the federal government made public all of the “Part B” Medicare expenditures from 2012. For the first time, it became possible to view – by physician – the types of services being billed, the number of each type, the charges, and the actual payment from Medicare.

According to the CMS press release this was being done “as part of the Obama administration’s work to make our health care system more transparent, affordable, and accountable.”

Major news organizations, such as the New York Times, quickly posted on line interactive tools that allow users to determine “how much Medicare pays for your doctor’s care” and ran a variety of companion articles about the distribution of payments and profiles of a few of the “best paid.”

The AMA was quick to point out some of the potential shortcomings of the dataset, including the fact that some of the physician profiles may be quite misleading, as in the cases where several residents or mid-level providers may have provided services under the supervision of a single Medicare provider, or where information may be missing or in error. In addition, the data are limited to services provided to Medicare beneficiaries, and therefore are not comprehensive profiles of physicians’ practices.

Despite the limitations, the move by CMS to make these data public seems to me to be a step in the right direction. If the data are confusing, professional societies and the news media should explain them. If they are incomplete or in error, then making them public should stimulate their improvement. If they are limited, they are still better than nothing. We should not stand in the way of shedding light on where all of those billions of dollars that Medicare spends go. Taking public funds should come with public accountability.

What do you think?

5 thoughts on “Medicare Physician Payments

  1. I think its great to publicize the data. I looked at it and saw nothing that any doctor I’ve got or others I know have would be ashamed of or have any reason to hide. So I don’t see what doctors are complaining about.

    What doctors and patients really need to be carping about is putting any hospital or practice admin above an office manager, including lawyers, salaries on the net. Now THAT I would find more interesting than doctors’ payments.

    Personally I’d like to see profit ratios for the various departments too. 🙂

    1. So great! So many systems have a spread sheet on how much is spent on a patient-and go after the PCP for not controlling costs. I won’t say that my last PCP was good, but he wasn’t bad. I had to be hospitalized 3 days after an ER visit. I did exactly what they told me to do, but I had mountains of pus coming out of my dog bites. They should connect the dots that includes the ER and hospitalization. Apparently something was done wrong, because the system never charged me for the ER visit.

  2. While I really don’t care about this, it’s nice to know that somebody cares. I just hope that my doctors get enough money to make ‘all of it’ worthwhile, including taking care of me. I’m not always pleasant. Right now i have a sprained knee that I’m going in for. Then I’m taking antibiotics for an earache, messed up eustachian tube, sinus. I’m seeing a PA, which I hope will be an improvement in care.

    I had nose mouth radiation-and I had strep for 5 months-because my old PCP wouldn’t look, or do a strep test. ER and UC was the same way. They’d order a scan-and it didn’t show strep in my system. They told me that I had to learn to live with my chronic conditions. I finally found an 80 year-old doctor that ran a strep test and gave me antibiotics.

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