Docs overpaid millions in Medicare bonuses

Physicians in Texas have been overpaid tens of millions of dollars in bonuses by the Medicare program, even though both parties knew they weren't entitled to the money, reported The Houston Chronicle.

Physicians in Hidalgo County--which includes the border city of McAllen--received $64 million in bonuses between 2003 and last year to which they were not entitled, according to the article.

McAllen received nationwide attention in 2009, when physician journalist Atul Gawande reported in The New Yorker magazine its Medicare costs were double the nationwide average and the highest in the United States.

The bonuses in this case were extra payments to physicians practicing in underserved areas. They receive an additional 10 percent on top of every Medicare claim they file, according to the Chronicle. However, the newspaper noted, the Health Resources and Services Administration, which is responsible for charting underserved areas, had not updated its maps between 2003 and late 2011.

In Hidalgo County's situation, it should not have been considered a region undeserved by physicians since 1994, according to the article.

Altogether, physicians nationwide received $33 million in unwarranted bonuses in 2010 alone.

For more:
- here's the Houston Chronicle article
- read The New Yorker article

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