Small Slice of Doctors Account for Big Chunk of Medicare Costs
Top 1% of Medical Providers Accounted for 14% of Billing, Federal Data Show
By CHRISTOPHER WEAVER, TOM MCGINTY and LOUISE RADNOFSKY
Updated April 9, 2014 9:17 a.m. ET
A tiny sliver of doctors and other medical providers accounted for an outsize portion of Medicare’s 2012 costs, according to an analysis of federal data that lays out details of physicians’ billings.
The top 1% of 825,000 individual medical providers accounted for 14% of the $77 billion in billing recorded in the data.
The long-awaited data reveal for the first time how individual medical providers treat America’s seniors—and, in some cases, may enrich themselves in the process. Still, there are gaps in the records released by the U.S. about physicians’ practice patterns, and doctors’ groups said the release of such data leaves innocent physicians open to unfair criticism.
Medicare paid 344 physicians and other health providers more than $3 million each in 2012. Collectively, the 1,000 highest-paid Medicare doctors received $3.05 billion in payments.
One-third of those top-earning providers are ophthalmologists, and one in 10 are radiation oncologists. Both specialties were singled out in a late 2013 report by the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services urging greater scrutiny of doctors who consistently receive large Medicare payments.