Distribution of Medicare payments in dermatology
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When the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released Medicare physician payment data for 2012 in early April, major media outlets focused on the top earners. The New York Times focused on the top of the payment distribution curve, showing that 2 percent of doctors received 24 percent of Medicare payments. The Wall Street Journal’s first story about the data was “Small Slice of Doctors Account for Big Chunk of Medicare Costs: Top 1 Percent of Medical Providers Accounted for 14 Percent of Billing, Federal Data Show.” And the Washington Post wrote, “The Medicare program is the source of a small fortune for many U.S. doctors, according to a trove of government records that reveal unprecedented details about physician billing practices nationwide.”

Dermatologists know that the data do not speak for themselves, and Dermatology World is developing a feature for a future issue on this topic. But the data do answer one question: How is Medicare spending distributed in dermatology? The specialty as a whole had 10,508 providers listed in Medicare’s data; collectively Medicare paid them $2,235,387,579.45. This averages out to $212,731.97 per dermatologist; the median dermatologist collected $124,174.15. The chart below shows how Medicare spending in dermatology breaks out by deciles; click on the image for a larger version.