Monday, February 19, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Throwing a light on Medicare billing

The Medicare reimbursement data released this week provides valuable insight into the opaque world of medical billing. The public now knows the government paid doctors $64 billion in reimbursements in 2012 and that several of the country's most highly reimbursed physicians practice in Florida and are under investigation for potential abuse. Receiving large Medicare reimbursements does not necessarily indicate fraud, but it does raise red flags. As the light shines more brightly on medical costs, the government should aggressively prosecute fraud and rein in attempts by doctors to buy political influence that could short-circuit investigations of their billing practices. The entire medical industry, from doctors to drug companies, should know the public is watching for signs of abuse.

The Department of Health and Human Services released the Medicare data on Wednesday after years of public pressure and a lawsuit filed by the Wall Street Journal. The most highly reimbursed specialities were concentrated in a few fields such as ophthalmology, oncology and rheumatology. Doctors say that is a result of the high cost of drugs and expensive equipment.

Florida is home to 28 of the 100 highest-billing Medicare doctors in the country, including the top two, Dr. Salomon E. Melgen, an ophthalmologist in West Palm Beach, and Dr. Asad Qamar, an Ocala cardiologist. According to the New York Times, the doctors were reimbursed $21 million and $18 million, respectively, for their work in 2012. Both doctors have been investigated for their high-billing practices. They have made six-figure donations to Democratic political causes and candidates, apparently in hopes of deflecting criticism of their business practices. Melgen and Qamar say they have done nothing wrong and cite the cost of expensive drugs, complicated medical procedures, high numbers of employees and large caseloads as reasons for their extensive Medicare billings.

Nationwide, doctors have given the Medicare data release mixed reviews. Some describe it as an invasion of privacy that may lead the public to incorrectly assume doctors are bilking the government. The raw data, the doctors say, does not explain factors such as the cost of expensive drugs, practices with multiple doctors that are reimbursed under a single physician's name, or doctors who work for clinics and receive salaries rather than money from Medicare. Those are legitimate concerns. But they don't outweigh the benefits of transparency, which provides the public with the opportunity to see how taxpayer dollars are spent.

The federal government acted responsibly last year when it released hospital billing data and has done so again in sharing Medicare reimbursements. It should continue on the path of full disclosure and make public billing information for Medicare Advantage plans, which are run by private insurers. Increased transparency could spark reform in an industry marked by confusing, exorbitant bills that consumers struggle to understand — and doctors and hospitals rarely have to justify.

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Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18
Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

The city of Tampa should have taken Tanja Vidovic seriously from the start when the Tampa firefighter complained about her treatment in the workplace. Now that a jury and judge have spoken, itís time for City Hall to cut its losses, learn from its mi...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

The dark cloud enveloping Tampa Bayís job placement centers keeps growing. There are accusations of forged documents, evidence of nepotism and concerns about grossly inflated performance numbers that could be tied to receiving more public money and b...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Even before the victims of another mass shooting at another public school were identified, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, state legislators and members of Congress rushed to South Florida or to social media to offer their thoughts and p...
Published: 02/15/18
Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

The Florida Department of Children and Families is right to call for a timely and "comprehensive" review of Hillsborough Countyís foster care system. Though the probe is a reaction to a recent case involving a child who was left unattended, the revie...
Published: 02/14/18

A Washington Post editorial: Modernize 911 calling before it becomes an emergency

This Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the first 911 emergency call placed in the United States. Since then, uncounted lives have been saved and people helped. It has been a great accomplishment of government.But even as an estimated 240 million 9...
Published: 02/13/18
Updated: 02/14/18
Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Gov. Rick Scott always has been grudging and imperious about restoring the voting rights of felons, requiring them to wait for years before begging the governor and Cabinet to be recognized again as citizens. That arrogance is on full display in a le...
Published: 02/13/18
Another voice: ĎDreamersí donít know whom to trust on immigration

Another voice: ĎDreamersí donít know whom to trust on immigration

Immigrants brought into this country illegally as children by their parents may be wondering whom to trust. The political theater being played out in Washington hasnít settled the status of either the "Dreamers" or the estimated 11 million other undo...
Published: 02/13/18
Editorial: Promising Tampa stadium site for Rays

Editorial: Promising Tampa stadium site for Rays

While it came as little surprise, the Tampa Bay Raysí selection of an Ybor City site near Tampaís Channel District as the best spot for a new stadium is an important milestone in the effort to keep Major League Baseball. Now comes the hard work of de...
Published: 02/09/18
Editorial: Senate should reject Houseís attack on public schools

Editorial: Senate should reject Houseís attack on public schools

After pummeling public education so soundly last year, itís little surprise Republican state legislators are mounting another attack on public schools, teachers and local districts. The mammoth education bill passed by the House last week is loaded w...
Published: 02/08/18
Updated: 02/13/18