Variations in payment patterns for surgical care in the centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

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We investigated provider and regional variation in payments made to surgeons by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) by indexing payments to unique beneficiaries treated and examined the proportion of charges that resulted in payments. Understanding variation in care within CMS may prove actionable by identifying modifiable, and potentially unwarranted, variations.


We analyzed the Medicare Part B Provider Utilization and Payment Data released by CMS for 2012. We included Medicare B participants in the fee-for-service program. We calculated for each provider the ratio of number of services provided to individual beneficiaries, and the ratio of total submitted charges to total Medicare payments. We also categorized each provider into deciles of total Medicare payments, and calculated the means per decile of total Medicare payment for surgeons and urologists. To determine any associations with ratio of services to beneficiaries, we conducted multivariate linear regressions.


The 20th, 40th, 60th, and 80th percentiles for the services-per-beneficiary ratios are 1.6, 2.2, 3.1, and 5.0, respectively (n = 83,376). Greater-earning surgeons offered more services per beneficiary, with a precipitous increase from the lowest decile to the highest. Charges were consistently greater than payments by a factor of 3. In our multivariate analysis of services per beneficiary ratio, female providers had lower ratios (P < .01), and we noted significant regional variation in the ratio of services per unique beneficiary (P < .001 for each of the 10 Standard Federal Regions).


We found significant variation in patterns of payments for surgical care in CMS.

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