Health Highlights: April 10, 2014

Health Highlights: April 10, 2014

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Some Doctors Paid at Least $3 Million Each by Medicare

A small number of doctors received at least $3 million each in Medicare payments in 2012, for a total of nearly $1.5 billion, according to an analysis of Medicare claims data released Wednesday by the White House.

In total, Medicare paid individual physicians nearly $64 billion in 2012. The median payment was just over $30,000, the Associated Pres reported.

Of the more than 825,000 doctors in the database, 344 earned at least $3 million each. At the top of the list was Florida ophthalmologist (eye specialist) Dr. Salomon Melgen, who earned nearly $21 million, the AP reported.

Last year, it was revealed that Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., used Melgen’s personal jet for trips to the Dominican Republic.

The AP analysis showed that 87 (1 in 4) of the top-paid doctors practice in Florida, followed by California (38), New Jersey (27), Texas (23) and New York (18). The data also showed that 151 ophthalmologists were among the 344 doctors in the $3 million-plus club and that they took in a total of nearly $658 million in Medicare payments.

Cancer specialists were fourth in line, with a combined total of nearly $477 million.

Medicare is taxpayer-financed, but doctor payment data has not been available to the public until now. Doctor groups tried to prevent release of the data, claiming it would be an invasion of doctors’ privacy, the AP reported.

Consumer groups, insurers, employers and news organizations wanted the data made public, arguing that it could help patients find doctors who provide quality, cost-effective care, the AP reported.

A federal judge’s ruling last year paved the way for the release of the data, which could also be used to learn more about health care costs in an attempt to control them.

The American Medical Association was against the release of the Medicare database, claiming it would do more harm than good. For example, the data may contain inaccurate information and does not provide useful facts about the quality of care, the AP reported.

The AMA wants doctors to be able to review their information before it is released.