Physicians Are Talking: Medicare Payments Go Public

Providers Express Anger, Concern Over the Release of Payment Data

Marrecca Fiore

Disclosures

April 09, 2014

In This Article

Publicizing Low Reimbursements: An Opportunity for Providers

A review of the payment data also reveals how low Medicare reimbursements can be. For example, an emergency medicine doctor billed Medicare $77 for frontal and lateral radiologic examination of the chest on 13 patients in 2012, but the Medicare reimbursement was just $9 per patient. In another case, the doctor billed Medicare $843 for providing care to a critically ill or injured patient and received just $186 from Medicare.

"As doctors, we can seize this as an opportunity to show the public how poorly CMS pays us," said another Medscape physician member. "The leaders of our professional societies could easily gather data under this new law and produce reports or graphs to be widely published, demonstrating that we often provide our services for fees that make us envious of a plumber."

Another Medscape member agreed, adding that the data omit information that would give patients the full picture of what providers earn versus what it costs them to treat patients.

"The patients can't do the math unless they have all the information," said an orthopedic surgeon. "CMS can pay me $100,000 [for services] that cost me $110,000 in overhead. I lost [$10,000 but] the [patients] think I made $100,000. It is like many other 'outcome studies.' You have to know all the information, and CMS will not give it."

Another physician also noted that the payments are pre-taxed amounts.

"Doctors' compensation [is] taxed individually as income," said an ophthalmologist. "There are no stock options. There are no loopholes. Their large debt burdens after completing their medical education is paid off with after-tax dollars. They also start in the workforce later than many of the other professional fields, with higher debt obligations, young families, and long work hours in an environment with increasing regulation, growing documentation requirements, more outside oversight and scrutiny, and decreasing third-party payment.

"The government and the press once again are going to confuse the public, distort the truth, and gloss over the many more complex and important issues that weave through the healthcare system," he added.

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