Friday, May 22, 2009

Health Insurance Administrative Costs to Doctors = $31 Billion Per Year : HEALTH REFORM WATCH

A portion of the suffering has been gauged: L. P. Casalino, S. Nicholson, D. N. Gans et al., “What Does It Cost Physician Practices to Interact with Health Insurance Plans?” Health Affairs Web Exclusive, May 14, 2009, gives us numbers–and they agree with my doctor.

Key Findings

* Physicians, on average, spent 142.3 hours per year interacting with health plans, or 3.0 hours per week and 2.7 physician work weeks per year. Primary care physicians spent significantly more time (164.9 hours per year) than medical specialists (123.7 hours) or surgical specialists (100.3 hours).
* Nursing staff spent an additional 23 weeks per year per physician interacting with health plans, while clerical staff spent 44 weeks and senior administrators spent 2.6 weeks doing so.
* Compared with other interactions, physicians, on average, spent more time dealing with formularies (78.2 hours for primary care doctors, for example), and the least on submitting or reviewing health plan quality data (1.9 hours annually for all physicians).
* Converted into dollars, practices spent an average of $68,274 per physician per year interacting with health plans; primary care practices spent $64,859 annually per physician, nearly one-third of the income, plus benefits, of the typical primary care physician.

The authors further note that “the estimated $31 billion in costs physician practices incur in their interactions with health plans comprises 6.9 percent of all U.S. expenditures for physicians and clinical services. That is six times the amount the federal government spends annually on the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).


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