Study measures patients' perceptions on orthopedic surgeons' pay

Most patients don't think orthopedic surgeons are overpaid, but when informed of Medicare reimbursement rates, many found them to be too low and said they would be willing to pay more out-of-pocket costs, according to a study of patient perceptions by Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

The study, published in the September/October issue of the journal Orthopedics, surveyed 231 patients between April and June 2015. They were asked to give their opinions on a series of questions, including whether physicians are overpaid, whether salaries should be cut, whether salaries should be linked to outcomes and the best way to lower healthcare costs.

Nearly 90 percent of survey participants said physicians are not overpaid and their salaries should not be cut, and 61 percent of patients said a surgeon's salary should not be tied to outcomes. About 79 percent said reimbursement to drug and device companies should be reduced.

Additionally, when asked to estimate the Medicare reimbursement payments, patients said $5,442 for arthroscopic knee surgery and $6,667 for anterior cruciate ligament, or

ACL surgery. The actual reimbursement payments are $576 and $1,013, respectively. Patients also said they would pay out-of-pocket costs of $2,286 for arthroscopic knee surgery and $3,517 for ACL surgery.

"Our study demonstrates that patients place a higher value than what is reimbursed for these types of procedures and are willing to pay more out of pocket costs," says Kelechi Okoroha, MD, a fourth-year resident in Henry Ford's Department of Orthopedic Surgery and the study's lead author. "When told of the actual reimbursement payments, patients believed the payments should have been at least five times more than the current value."

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