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 Times found.

 

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 database,

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 Today reported.

 

"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."