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Patients Overestimate Spine Surgeons' Compensation

WEDNESDAY, July 10 (HealthDay News) -- Patients overestimate both what they think spinal surgeons should be reimbursed and the actual amount that Medicare reimburses, according to a study published in the July 1 issue of Spine.

Neil Badlani, M.D., from the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, and colleagues surveyed 200 patients in an outpatient office setting regarding their perceptions of a surgeon's reimbursement for typical spine procedures. Questions related to the surgeon's reimbursement and not that of the hospital.

The researchers found that respondents thought that surgeons should be paid $21,299, on average, for performing a lumbar discectomy, and estimated that the actual payment from Medicare was $12,336. The average reimbursement was actually $971. For other procedures, similar disparities were noted. Most respondents felt that the average Medicare reimbursement was too low for spine procedures. For lumbar discectomy, 92.2 percent of patients rated reimbursement as "too low;" 6.1 percent rated it as "about right;" and 1.6 percent felt that reimbursement was "too high."

"Patients think that orthopedic spine surgeons should be compensated over 10 to 20 times more than current Medicare reimbursement rates," the authors write. "Patients overestimate the actual amount that Medicare reimburses by a factor of approximately seven to 10."

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