Medicare paid a Florida ophthalmologist $26 million in 2012. It paid a Florida cardiologist $23 million. Dozens of other doctors received more than $4 million. And hundreds received well over $1 million.
These are among the more starling revelations contained in a trove of data on physician payments that the Medicare program released yesterday. (To access the data directly, click here.) It was no secret that some doctors make a lot of money. But that much money, and entirely at taxpayer expense? That took many by surprise.
What is not a surprise is the distribution of Medicare payments to doctors. The highest earners were almost all specialists. An analysis by the New York Times found that all but a few of the doctors in the highest-paid 2% practiced in specialties and only a small portion in primary care.
There is broad agreement that the United States faces a shortage of primary care physicians. The situation is expected to become much worse as more Americans gain health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act. A quick look at the newly released data leaves little doubt as to one of the major causes.