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Editor's e-Note
Curious about how much any individual physician earns from Medicare? Now it’s as easy as checking the Internet.

The same day that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released individual physicians’ Part B payment data to the public for the first time, The New York Times created and posted an online Web tool that lets users look up any physician and find out how much Medicare paid them in 2012. Such ease of access is a little startling and the topic of this month’s E-News Exclusive.

— Jim Knaub, editor
e-News Exclusive
CMS Releases Physicians’ Part B Payments
By Jim Knaub

On April 9, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released data sets reporting what each physician and other providers were paid as part of the Medicare program. You can download the large data files from the CMS website, and with some effort, analyze them with database or spreadsheet software.

On the same day, The New York Times published an article about the physician data accompanied by a Web tool that allows users to quickly look up how much any physician was paid by Medicare Part B. Within a few minutes, I had found the Medicare reimbursement of my primary care physician, my dermatologist, and the surgeon who operated on my foot. The data files show what procedures each physician performed and how many by procedure code. They also include a selection of charge data, including gross charges, Medicare allowable charges, and average reimbursements. It’s interesting stuff to anyone in this business.

Then I looked up the Medicare reimbursement for some radiologists whom I know. On one level, I felt a little dirty seeing the amounts these men and women received from Medicare, but I also value the idea of transparency in how tax dollars are spent. Admittedly, I’m not sure how this data release meshes with transparency.

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Worth Repeating
“The imaging provisions in this bill [the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014] will help remove the conjecture from health policy regarding how much imaging is necessary, whether patients are getting appropriate care and how efficiently America is using its health care resources. For health care reform to truly advance, physicians, as well as patients, have to be comfortable that transparency works both ways. The imaging provisions in this bill are a major step forward for health care.”

Paul H. Ellenbogen, MD, FACR, chair of the ACR Board of Chancellors, as reported in an ACR press release discussing the act, which requires providers to consult appropriateness criteria when prescribing advanced imaging procedures
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