Ophthalmologists are among Medicare's highest paid specialists—a finding already drawing scrutiny from policymakers and watchdogs worried about waste and overuse. But doctors' advocates say the data shouldn't be interpreted as eye doctors getting rich off the government's senior citizen healthcare program.
A closer inspection of the data reveals that many of the highest-paying codes for eye doctors relate to the use of Lucentis, a branded injectible drug for macular degeneration that costs $2,000 a dose.
Medicare rules let doctors mark up the price of drugs delivered in their offices by 6% over the manufacturer's average sale price. The additional fee was designed to help physicians defray the cost of running their facilities.
Ophthalmologists say the federal government's release of physician payment data has skewed public perception against them by including the total cost of drugs in overall Medicare payments. “Including those drug reimbursement dollars as part of a physician's Medicare payment artificially inflates the amount paid to ophthalmologists,” said Dr. David Park II, CEO of the American Academy of Ophthalmology in San Francisco.