Now you can find out, by checking this huge database of names and dollars just released from Medicare. The New York Times made the data searchable by doctor’s name, specialty and location.
The database shows total payouts by Medicare to individual doctors by name for 2012. It includes all Medicare “Part B” payments, which include not only the doctor’s office visit fee, but charges for medicines and procedures administered in doctors’ offices. Medicare payments to institutions like hospitals are not included.
Already news media have found some eyebrow-lifting numbers. One ophthalmologist in West Palm Beach, Florida, Salomon Melgen, received more than $20 million for 2012. His lawyer issued a statement cautioning that the vast bulk of the money went to pay drug companies for expensive drugs used in treatment.
Another high-dollar specialty is cardiology. By my count, in the one town of Ocala, Florida, seven of the 34 cardiologists in the database received seven-figure payments in 2012. One, Asad Qamar, got $18 million.
I checked my own internist’s building in downtown Washington, D.C., and noticed that ten radiologists in the building all pulled down more than $300,000 in Medicare payments that year. (You can see for yourself by selecting “diagnostic radiology” and zip code 20036 in the database.)
The New York Times found that 2 percent of the 880,000 doctors paid by Medicare in 2012 received nearly a quarter of all the payments.
It will take a while to sort out the meaning of this vast trove of data, reportedly the largest ever released by Medicare.
Commenters on news sites are already drawing their own pre-fabbed conclusions, some arguing, for example, that this proves that all of government is vastly corrupt and inefficient, with others saying the data show the need for a single-payer medical system with doctors paid by salary.
Stay tuned for more on a story that is only starting to unfold.