Oncologist pay illustrates flaw in posting Medicare billing data

Posted May 16, 2011

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Regarding "Bill would post every physician's Medicare billing data on Internet" (link): Sen. Charles Grassley has proposed that Medicare publicly release data on Medicare reimbursement for individual physicians. This would be terribly unfair to doctors, and especially oncologists, in private practice. We have a center with nine medical oncologists and two radiation oncologists, and we have onsite imaging, laboratory and chemotherapy, which is appreciated by our patients.

Unlike for hospital-based physicians, Medicare sends payments for all of these services in the name of the physician in the practice, thus increasing private physicians' "reimbursement" greatly. I explained to a patient yesterday that I wish I received all of that, and he laughed. Our actual pay has decreased 25% over the last few years.

The AMA must stand firm against this distortion of the data. If I were cynical, I would think that this is just another nail in the coffin that Medicare is trying to build for all physicians in private practice.

Joseph J. Muscato, MD, president, Missouri Oncology Society, Columbia, Mo.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2011/05/16/edlt0516.htm.

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