The AMA's unhealthy role in setting doctor payments
The physician group plays a little-known part in how the government reimburses its members. The result is higher costs.
Some doctors are reaping huge profits courtesy of a secretive American Medical Association committee that helps set the rates they charge, which seem divorced from economic reality, according to an expose the Washington Post published over the weekend.
These AMA estimates, which are required by federal law, overstate the amount of time it takes a physician to perform some tasks by as much as 100%. Critics argue this is helping fuel the skyrocketing costs Americans pay for health care.
"If the time estimates are to be believed, some doctors would have to be averaging more than 24 hours a day to perform all of the procedures that they are reporting," the newspaper says. "In some specialties, more than one in five doctors would have to have been working more than 12 hours on average on a single day -- much longer than the 10 hours or so a typical surgery center is open."
Take a common procedure such as a colonoscopy. The AMA estimates that physicians can perform the screening in 75 minutes, more than double the 30 minutes it actually takes, according to the Post.
Similar problems were found with ophthalmologists. The Post found one Florida specialist who performed 3,594 procedures for cataracts and other ailments last year. That works out to 30-40 surgeries per day on the Mondays and Tuesdays he performs these procedures, or a 30-hour-plus workday.
The Post story is both enlightening and depressing. None of these doctors have done anything illegal, which is why Congress needs to change the rules. Physicians have long argued that they aren't to blame for soaring health care costs even though most earn comfortable livings.
Many medical experts have long argued that physicians are rewarded too generously for performing tests rather than making their patients feel better. It's a system that's counterproductive and costly.
Total health care spending in the U.S. will nearly double to $4.6 trillion in 2020, versus $2.6 trillion in 2010. To make matters worse, all that spending isn't making people any healthier. In fact, a recently released study found the U.S. had fallen behind its peers in most measures of health.
Having the AMA figure out what physicians should be paid is like having a fox guard a henhouse. It's hardly a shock that the main lobbying group for doctors would create a system that rewards its members. An AMA spokesperson didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
On the day after this story was published, a spokesperson for the AMA responded, defending the association's practice and disputing that it has caused an increase in health care costs, saying that claim "completely ignores the fact that the Medicare physician payment system is ultimately budget-neutral. There is no financial impact if the government accepts a physician recommendation for increasing a medical service value since the budget neutrality rule requires offsetting reductions to all other values."
Follow Jonathan Berr on Twitter @jdberr.
Doctors and hospitals are simply looting insurance/medicar/medicaid with the current system! it is like giving the keys of your locker to the thieves! in all the non-emergency situations, doctors and hospitals must be forced to disclose the cost of the procedures to the consumer/patient and get thier consent before proceeding with treatment. also, they must be forced to publish their charges for various procedures at some state controlled web site. there is NO transparency with the current system. they charge whatever they want. recently, i was shocked with some big bills for a normal doctor visit! it is time for universal health care. Recently, i went for REGULAR visit with a ddoctor, my bill $1855/-!! do they think that money grows on the trees ? it is just looting!
We may have far from the best healthcare system money can buy. But no one has one that's more expensive.
Who says we're not Number One!
How about doctors and hospitals be required to post their fees for the various different procedures. Does anybody have any idea how much anything is until after the fact? Your basic 10 min go to the dr because your sick office visit is now $100 ( that's Blue Cross approved amount).
I agree with a previous poster about auto repair approved repair times. I had a side view mirror replaced at a dealership, I think the stated repair time was 1 hour. I saw my car go in & within 15-20 I was being called to check out. I complained why I was being charged for an hour when it clearly took much less time. I was cited the repair times in the manual, but ultimately was able to get a little credit.
But it sounds like it's the same thing with medical procedures, these things need to be exposed and revised.
Our politicians with there Cadillac health plan could care less, what it cost the commoners to pay for healthcare. There should be a mandatory law, that just like Nascar drivers, our politicians, should have to wear the name of the sponsor, who helped get them elected. There would be a good share of our politicians, advertising the AMA, the big Banks and big Oil companies. The one percent own this Govt.
Holy Free Market, Batman! We need the power of consumer choice to drive down costs!
That way, when I'm having my heart attack I'll just ask the EMTs to drive around to the nearest three hospitals so i can comparison shop...
check todays' washingtonpost, u will see a link in the "featured Videos" section, "who decides what a doctor is worth". There you can see many doctors charge/LOOT for more than 24hrs/day!
AMA and doctors are RIPPING off American people. This GREED must be stopped. There needs to be more transparency. They must be forced to publih their charges at some state run sites.
Doctors working more that 24 hrs/day !!!!! really ???
watch this, take from today's Washintonpost ..
It is abolutely crazy! I work hard 6 days a week to get ahead and give my family what they need. I work two jobs. I dont steal nor sell drugs. You cant win in this crazy out of control country. We dont fix the welfare system. We dont fix Health Care. We just raise Taxes to give it away to all of the system suckers and crack heads. When is someone with BALLS going to fix something????? Does anyone care??? Keep up the great job PREZ.
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