Medicare Pays More for Procedural Care Than Cognitive, Study Finds

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Medicare pays physicians three to five times more for procedural care than it pays for cognitive care that may cut costs and improve population health, according to a JAMA Internal Medicine study.

DoctorResearchers compared the hourly pay physicians received for providing cognitive care — primary care physicians' main professional activities — to how much Medicare paid them for two common procedures — cataract extractions and colonoscopies. They found Medicare paid 368 percent more for colonoscopies and 486 percent more for cataract extractions than it reimbursed physicians for a similar amount of time spent on cognitive care.

Based on these results, these two common specialty procedures could generate more revenue in a couple of hours than a primary care physician receives for a day's work, according to the study. The researchers said their findings demonstrate financial pressures incentivize U.S. care providers to perform costly procedures that drive up healthcare spending.

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