Minor medical problems are racking up bills because they often involve doctors from specialties, like dermatology, which are among the highest skilled and compensated in the world of medicine.
According to an article from the NY Times, these specialists have been able to steady increase their revenues by offering new and more lucrative procedures. Minor procedures typically offer the best return on investment for the specialist, according to the article. A minor procedure can be performed a dozen times in the same amount of time as one larger surgery, such as a bypass operation.
The incomes of dermatologists, gastroenterologists and oncologists rose more than 50 percent between 1995 and 2012, while the income for primary care physicians only rose 10 percent.
Also, insurers pay much less for traditional doctoring tasks such as listening for a heart murmur or diagnosing the flu. Alternatively, dermatologists are earning nearly $500,000 per year on average despite their workload being the lightest, according to the article.
According to the chairman of the National Commission on Physician Payment Reform, the high earnings by specialists are due to how well they have managed to monetize their treatments.
Patients are paying more each year for medical care. At last count, the nation’s medical spending reached $2.7 trillion. Patients’ payments to physicians account for 20 percent of American healthcare expenses.
Additionally, the use of a minor dermatological surgery—Mohs surgery—that is often very pricey for patients, has skyrocketed in the United States by 400 percent in a decade.
While upstanding healthcare providers recommend only what is best for their patients, the changes in healthcare insurance reimbursement rates have created the temptation for physicians to tell their patients they need the surgery immediately instead of waiting to see if surgery is really necessary at all.
Medicare put the Mohs surgery at the top of its lists of “potentially misvalued” list of overused and overpriced procedures for patients last year and the American Academy of Dermatology agrees that the surgery is sometimes used inappropriately.
We are all thankful that doctors are trained to watch out for our health. However, in an insurance driven, cost reducing healthcare industry, patients must look out for their own interests and insure that they are well informed of their choices as it relates to healthcare.
Photo Credit: Flickr contributor, Alex Proimos