KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Taking A Close-To-Home Look At The Medicare Billing Data

Other news outlets offer localized takes on the Medicare data, including the Miami Herald's coverage of a physician who emerged as the federal program's top-paid doctor, the Philadelphia Inquirer's look at an ambulance business' billing patterns and the Seattle Times' examination of ophthalmologists.

Miami Herald: South Florida Ophthalmologist Emerges As Medicare's Top-Paid
A South Florida doctor under criminal investigation for alleged excessive billing of Medicare emerged as the federal health program's top-paid physician in the nation Wednesday, according to the most detailed data on physician payments ever released in Medicare's nearly 50-year history (Weaver and Chang, 4/9).

Philadelphia Inquirer: Ambulances Among Biggest In Medicare Payments
It doesn't take many customers to build an ambulance business, according to Medicare payment data released Wednesday by federal regulators. For example, Red Cross Ambulance, which is based in Huntingdon Valley and operates two ambulances, state data show, collected $395,601 from Medicare for a dozen patients in 2012.That amounted to an annual average of nearly $33,000 per patient (Brubaker, 4/9).

Seattle Times: State's Ophthalmologists Top Medicare Payment List
In Silverdale, Kitsap County, Retina Center Northwest's three doctors were among the state's top 50 in total payments. One, Dr. David Spinak, topped the list with total payments of more than $3 million in 2012. But Dr. Todd Schneiderman, 50, who founded the clinic in 2001 and whose reimbursements came in over $2 million, said the reimbursements reflect in large part payments for the expensive and very effective drugs he and many ophthalmologists use to stop, and even reverse, serious age- or diabetes-related eye problems such as macular degeneration (Ostrom, 4/9).

The Arizona Republic: Feds Shed Light On Doctors' Charges, Payments
The federal government today took the unprecedented step of releasing Medicare billing records for about 880,000 doctors and medical providers nationwide, providing the public a rare glimpse into the murky world of health-care billing. The massive data release showed that Arizona doctors and medical providers collected a one-year average of $94,699 from Medicare, ranking the state No. 14 among 50 states by that measure. In Arizona, 16,779 doctors, nurse practitioners, labs and other providers billed Medicare a total of $4.9 billion in 2012 and collected nearly $1.6 billion, or about 32 cents for each dollar billed (Alltucker and Dempsey, 4/9).

The Star Tribune: Medicare Payments To Doctors Reveal Specialists As Big Winners
The federal government spent a lot of money in 2012 on specialty eye care at 7760 France Av. S., Suite 310 — $13 million to be exact. Seven ophthalmologists practicing at that location received more than $1 million apiece from Medicare — an amount matched by only five other Minnesota doctors — according to Wednesday's first-ever release of data showing payments from the traditional Medicare Part B program to the nation’s doctors. The reimbursement to VitreoRetinal Surgery in Edina is one of many surprising nuggets in Wednesday’s data release, which also paints a detailed picture of the medical care used by the nation’s 49 million Medicare patients and how the program pays doctors and other providers to deliver it (Olson and Howatt, 4/9).

The Baltimore Sun:  Medicare Pays Hundreds Of Millions To Maryland Providers
Eye specialists, ambulance service providers and clinical laboratories are the biggest recipients of Medicare payments around the country and in Maryland, taking in hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal health program for seniors, according to newly released data. Federal officials released the data Wednesday for the first time since 1979, offering transparency to the system but drawing criticism from some provider groups who fear that the data could be taken out of context (Cohn, 4/9).

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