Gender Differences in Physician Service Provision Using Medicare Claims Data

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Abstract

Objective:

To determine differences in the provision of Medicare services based on physician gender in the United States.

Patients and Methods:

Participants included all 2013 Medicare fee-for-service physicians and their patients, a population that is predominantly older than 65 years. The 2013 Medicare Provider Utilization and Payment Data for services rendered between January 1, 2013, and December 31, 2013, were combined with the 2015 Physician Compare National Downloadable files and 2015 Berenson-Eggers Type of Service classification files. Total fee-for-service Medicare payments and Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System procedure codes for all fee-for-service beneficiaries were aggregated according to physician gender, specialty, years since medical school graduation, and type of service classifications.

Results:

Excluding drug reimbursement, the mean total Medicare payments per female physician, compared with those for male physicians, were 41% in surgical specialties, 72% in hospital-based specialties, and 55% across all specialties (P<.001). The mean overall number of unique beneficiary visits per female physician was 59% of that for male physicians (P<.001). By using the Berenson-Eggers Type of Service classification, procedures and other services by female physicians were of 54% lower overall average intensity (allowed payments/number of unique patients) compared with those of male physicians. These differences persisted irrespective of years since medical school graduation (P<.001).

Conclusion:

Female physicians had smaller average total Medicare payments and fewer unique beneficiary visits than male physicians in the care of fee-for-service Medicare beneficiaries in 2013. The differences persisted across specialty types and years in practice. These data can identify variation but cannot determine causation or explain the reasons behind gender differences. These findings suggest, but do not prove, that female physician Medicare payments are lower due to different practice patterns, consisting of fewer patients cared for and lower intensity of care.

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