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CINCINNATI - Eight Cincinnati doctors were among 4,000 nationwide who received more than $1 million in Medicare payments in 2012, newly released data shows.
The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid released billing details on 880,000 medical providers who received $77 billion in payments in 2012. It’s the first time physician payments have been disclosed by the government, which released similar data on hospitals last year. The new numbers show less than 3 percent of physicians claimed 28 percent of payments nationwide. Seven doctors received more than $10 million each.
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View Medicare payments to Tri-State health care professionals
In Cincinnati, five ophthalmologists ranked among the biggest recipients of Medicare payments. Four of the five work at Cincinnati Eye Institute , a Blue Ash –based practice that performs 9,000 surgeries a year and is the second-largest private ophthalmology practice in the country. The practice received $15 million from Medicare in 2012, including $1.45 million to Dr. Christopher Riemann.
“A lot of that has to do with the patient base we deal with. Two thirds of our patients are Medicare, older individuals with vision problems,” said Don Holmes, vice president of marketing and business development for Cincinnati Eye Institute.
Because its doctors specialize in surgical and specialty treatments for eye disease, Cincinnati Eye Institute tends to bill Medicare for more expensive procedures. For example, Lucentis is a drug therapy for macular degeneration that costs $2,000 a month for injections. The Cincinnati Eye Institute doctors with the highest Medicare totals are those providing that treatment. Holmes said 94 percent of their payments went to pharmaceutical companies for the purchase of drugs, while the physicians received 6 percent.
The practice started its own compounding pharmacy and has explored less expensive drugs to bring costs down.
“We’re trying to do everything that we can to be more efficient,” he said. “We understand that there’s more patients, same amount of money and we need to be as efficient as we can possibly be to work within the system.”
Holmes said people should remember that Cincinnati Eye Institute doctors don’t keep most of the money received by Medicare. It supports the entire practice with 500 employees at 18 locations and a nonprofit that provides free eye care to low-income patients from a church basement in Roselawn.
Dr. Philip Leming was the highest-ranking local physician in 2012 Medicare payments. He received $1.6 million for his work as a medical oncologist at Cincinnati Hematology-Oncology Inc., which is part of Christ Hospital. Leming was a founding partner of the practice in 1992. He established the Clinical Cancer Research Department at Christ Hospital and is an aspiring blues and boogie piano player, according to his bio.
"Dr. Leming partners with a network of physicians nationwide to provide his patients with the best and latest courses of treatment and medication, revolutionalizing melanoma care in the Tri-State community," said Michael Quantara, executive director of the Oncology Service Line at Christ Hospital. "Many of these treatments are expensive but life saving. The costs billed to Medicare by Dr. Leming are largely to pay for these expensive drugs, and not paid to the physician himself."
The Ohio Hematology/Ongology Society, a Hilliard -based nonprofit, expressed concern over the release of Medicare provider data, saying it fails to put billing information in context.
"The numbers alone will not explain quality of care of account for specific drivers of cost such as specialty, location, supply costs and support staff," said the trade group for cancer care physicians. "The release of data without placing these aspects of care and others into context may result in inaccurate and misleading information for consumers."
National reaction to the data has been mixed, with some doctors challenging the accuracy and questioning the need for making the numbers public. Consumer groups argue the release makes the health care system more transparent and will ultimately lead to reduced costs.
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