About 2 percent of doctors
accounted for approximately one-quarter of Medicare payments, according to a
new report released today by the Centers for Medicare Services, The
New York Times reported. And one-quarter of doctors who accept
Medicare patients were responsible for three-quarters of the spending, the
The data was released over the
objections of the American Medical Association, after a court order lifted an
injunction that had been in place since 1979.
The data, which the Times made
available in a searchable
details the $77.4 billion in
Medicare Part B payments made in 2012 to more than 880,000 providers as
reimbursements for doctor visits, tests and other treatments. The data is
searchable by geographic area and by specific doctor.
In Iowa, the average Medicare
reimbursement to doctors was $63,104 in 2012, according to the database, with
physicians being reimbursed an average 30.8 percent of the charges billed.
"This is actually the most
useful data set that Medicare has ever released," said Dr. Bob Kocher, who
served in the Obama administration and is now a partner at Venrock, a venture
capital firm. People will be able to see just how many elbow surgeries a given
orthopedic surgeon has performed on Medicare patients, he said, and they will
be able to better judge a doctor's style of practice.
The American Medical Association
issued a statement cautioning that the release of the data without context
"can lead to inaccuracies, misinterpretations and false conclusions."
The association released a guide outlining
the data set's nine primary limitations that people need to consider when
evaluating physicians' information.
Gail Wilensky, former Medicaid
program director under President George H.W. Bush, said consumer access to the
data could help spur more involvement in health care, USA
"This will be part and parcel of what we're
trying to do in this country of getting more consumer involvement," she
said. "An employer group can look at outcome data. They have big samples.
And they can look at other physician groups with similar populations."