The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

April 14, 2014

Ala. doctors explain high Medicare reimbursements

— HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — Medicare reimbursed several Alabama doctors more than $4 million in 2012, according to data released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services last week.

However, doctors say the numbers reflect the high cost of specialized treatment and most of the money doesn't factor into their salaries.

Dr. Sammy Becdach and Dr. Jeremy Hon of the Clearview Cancer Institute in Huntsville each received more than $4.2 million in reimbursements, and Dr. John Waples received more than $4.8 million. All patient services at the institute are billed under their doctors' Medicare numbers, Waples said.

The median Medicare reimbursement is roughly $30,000, according to the Medical Association of the State of Alabama. However, doctors said high drug costs, using certain types of technology and equipment during specialized treatment and high overhead costs can also factor into the multimillion dollar reimbursement rates.

"Most of it is due to the drugs we purchase," Dr. Richard Jones, a rheumatologist, told the Tuscaloosa News (http://bit.ly/1iJg80k). "The cost of the drug is ascribed to the physician, but that's not what the physician makes."

Jones was reimbursed about $3.9 million from Medicare in 2012 and said some medications patients may need on a weekly or monthly basis can range from $2,000 to $5,000 for individual treatments.

The Tuscaloosa News reported that most Alabama doctors who were reimbursed $1 million or more from Medicare specialized in cancer treatment, rheumatology and ophthalmology.

Dr. Amit Shah, a cardiologist who runs the nuclear stress lab at Cardiology Consultants in Tuscaloosa told the newspaper that in some cases, procedures for other doctors and their patients may also be billed under his name since he's the head of the department.

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