The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently released a treasure trove of 2012 Medicare payment data on 880,000 health care providers nationwide.
Intended to increase healthcare transparency, the data represents Medicare Part B claims totaling $77 billion in medical billings. Doctor visits, laboratory tests, and other treatments provided outside of a hospital setting are included in the database.
Payment history for 6,000 services and procedures is now available at the level of individual health care providers, including the identification of doctor names. Dollar amounts disclosed include Medicare reimbursements, as well as patient payments in the form of deductibles or co-insurance. Procedures on fewer than 10 Medicare recipients conducted by a single provider are excluded.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports that 49 million elderly and disabled Americans received more than $555 billion in Medicare services during 2012. Fraud is an acknowledged element of the Medicare program, and the GAO estimates at least $44 billion in annual Medicare disbursements are made improperly.
Ophthalmologists and radiation oncologists are medical specialties that stand out as receiving high payment levels, relative to total national Medicare spending, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Dr. Salomon Melgen, a Florida ophthalmologist, received the highest level of 2012 Medicare reimbursement in the country, according to the Tribune Newspapers. Melgen’s billing practices and political connections have been the subject of a grand jury investigation.
Another Florida doctor, Ocala-based cardiologist Asad Qamar, took second place nationally with $22.9 million in 2012 Medicare payments, also as reported by the Tribune Newspapers.
A federal injunction, granted at the urging of the American Medical Association, has kept this data private since 1979. The Wall Street Journal published an investigative series on physician reimbursements in 2011, and in the following year its parent Dow Jones & Co. took legal action seeking database access. The injunction was ultimately overturned by a Florida judge.
Click on the link to access the CMS physician dataset.