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Analyzing Medicare payments to otologists

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August 18, 2018
by T. Edward Imbery, MD; Brian D. Nicholas, MD; Parul Goyal, MD, MBA


The study objective was to analyze Medicare payment data to otologists compared to otolaryngologists, using the publicly released Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services dataset. Charges, payments, and common Current Procedural Terminology codes were obtained. Otology providers were selected from the roster of the American Otological Society. Descriptive statistics and unequal variance two-tailed t tests were used for comparisons between otologists (n = 147) and otolaryngologists (n = 8,318). The mean overall submitted charge was $204,851 per otology provider and was $211,209 per other otolaryngology providers (non-otologists) (p = 0.92). The mean payment to otologists was $56,191 (range: $297 to $555,274, standard deviation [SD] ±$68,540) and significantly lower (p = 0.005) than $77,275 to otolaryngologists (range: $94 to $2,123,900, SD ±$86,423). The mean submitted charge-to-payment ratio (fee multiplier) per otology provider was 3.87 (range 1.50 to 9.10, SD ±1.70), which was significantly higher (p < 0.0001) than the ratio for otolaryngologists (mean 2.91; range: 1.25 to 17.51, SD ±1.22). Office visit evaluation and management (E&M) codes made up the majority in terms of use and payments. Interestingly, allergy-based services comprised a substantial amount of repeat use among a small subset of otologists. Audiology services were billed by a similar percentage of otologists and other otolaryngologists (52%), but otologists received a significantly higher overall payment for these services.

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