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Study: Payment Varies Widely for Common Surgical Procedures

A new study has revealed significant discrepancies in surgeons' hourly payment for common general surgery procedures, demonstrating failings in current reimbursement methodology, according to a General Surgery News report.

Researchers compared the total care time and payment per unit for time for nine common general surgery procedures using CPT codes for the 2009 fiscal year. The analysis showed vast discrepancies between payment for procedures, ranging from a low of $188 per hour for a partial colectomy to a high of $700 per hour for laparoscopic gastric bypass.

According to Abhishek Chatterjee, MD, MBA, a senior resident in plastic surgery at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and the presenter of the study, the wide range in hourly compensation reflects flaws in the formula used to set compensation rates. According to the report, the formula is based on a subjective assessment of physician work rather than hard data. The relative value scale for CPT reimbursement is based on a formula that combines 52.5 percent physician work, 43.6 percent practice expensive and 3.9 percent professional liability.

Physician time includes operating time, hospital days and follow-up clinic days in 15- or 30-minute segments.

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