Friday, July 31, 2015

Has Medicare Made Your Doctor a Millionaire?

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.

Has Medicare Made Your Doctor a Millionaire?


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.

More coverage
Are doctors in it for the money?


We asked the blog's board of contributors for their thoughts:

"Not only is there a tremendous discrepancy in the achievable income between specialists and primary care physicians, there is also a perceived distinction in stature.  In medical schools, the highest earing specialists are held in the highest regard.  Their photos appear on billboards, on television, and in print ads.  The primary care physicians are often viewed as the least prestigious physicians, and are not touted by medical students as role models.  This needs to be changed if we try to lure our brightest students into primary care." - Paula L. Stillman, MD, MBA

What are your thoughts on the Medicare data?

Professor, School of Law & Drexel School of Public Health
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The Field Clinic reports and analyzes health care laws, government policies, and political trends that are transforming the care we receive and the way we pay for it. Read more about our panel of bloggers here.

This blog is produced in partnership with Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health-policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente. Portions of this blog may also be found on and in the Inquirer's Sunday Health Section.

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Robert I. Field, Ph.D., J.D., M.P.H. Professor, School of Law & Drexel School of Public Health
Jeffrey Brenner, MD Founder of the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers, Medical Director of the Urban Health Institute at Cooper University Healthcare
Andy Carter President & CEO, The Hospital & Healthsystem Assoc. of Pa.
Robert B. Doherty Senior Vice President of Governmental Affairs & Public Policy American College of Physicians
David Grande, MD, MPA Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania
Tine Hansen-Turton Chief Strategy Officer of Public Health Management Corporation
Drew A. Harris, DPM, MPH Director of Health Policy Program at the Jefferson School of Population Health
Antoinette Kraus Director of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network
Laval Miller-Wilson Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Health Law Project
David B. Nash, MD, MBA Founding Dean of the Jefferson School of Population Health
Mark V. Pauly, Ph.D. Professor of Health Care Management, Business Economics and Public Policy at The Wharton School
Howard J. Peterson, MHA Managing Partner of TRG Healthcare, a national healthcare consulting firm
Paula L. Stillman, MD, MBA Healthcare consultant with special expertise in population health and disease management
Elizabeth A. W. Williams Senior Vice President & Chief Communications Officer for Independence Blue Cross
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