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    Enlightened discourse on the Internet

     

    As you know, the federal government recently decided to make public the payments by Medicare to physicians in the United States. The American Medical Association had opposed this release of data, saying that without proper background and supportive information it would be misleading, and also arguing that it violated the right to privacy of physicians. The Centers for Medicare Services (CMS) officials said they hoped “the data would be analyzed by the media and by private researchers to help ferret out fraud and discrepancies that indicate unnecessary or excessive treatments being performed.”

    Whatever the merits of the wisdom (or lack thereof) of the CMS decision to put these data out in the public domain, the data reveals a few important pieces of information:

    1.      Ophthalmologists rank relatively highly among subspecialties in terms of the amount of Medicare payments to physician. This did not come as a big surprise to me, as the increasing prevalence of eye diseases with age means that we largely practice a geriatric specialty.

    2.     One third of the most highly CMS-supported physicians, receiving millions per year, were ophthalmologists.

    3.     Sadly, yours truly was not among this group.

    4.     Male physicians, compared to females in the same specialty, receive more payments from CMS.

    Peter J. McDonnell, MD
    He is director of The Wilmer Eye Institute, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, and chief medical editor of ...

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