The Medicare Data Dump: How The Government Gave Physicians The Finger

Jordan Grumet | | April 29, 2014

According to a study by Jackson Healthcare, the percentage rate of U.S. physician compensation is among the lowest of western nations.  In 2011, physicians’ salaries compromised 8.6 percent of the nation’s total health care costs.  This is in comparison to 15 percent in Germany, 11 percent in France, and 11.6 percent in Australia.  Detractors point to the fact that although the percentages speak for themselves, if you look at the total number of dollars (per capita health spending in the U.S. is double that of the average for the twelve other OECD countries), physicians are still compensated quite well.  Either way, in our bloated costly system, physician services are comparatively already discounted.

So it was with great pomp and circumstances, as well as consternation from various physician sources, that the government released data for all payments made by Medicare to physicians in the year 2012.   Lauded as a win for transparency, the administration argued that making such information public would lead to a reduction in fraud, greater research into healthcare costs, and empower citizen investigators to crack the code of our overwrought system.

In reality, the so called “data dump” was exactly just that.  The information didn’t account for the percentage of each physician’s practice as Medicare versus private insurance.  There was no recognition of pass-through costs (medications, chemotherapy, etc.).  There was no adjustment for range or severity of illness of each physicians patient population...