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Variability in Critical Care‐Related Charge Markups in Medicare Patients

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Charge markups for health care are variable and inflated several times beyond cost. Using the 2015 Medicare Provider Fee-For-Service Utilization and Payment Data file, we identified providers who billed for critical care hours and related procedures, including CPR, EKG interpretation, central line placement, arterial line placement, chest tube/thoracentesis, and emergent endotracheal intubation. Markup ratios (MRs), defined as the amount charged divided by the amount allowable, were calculated and compared; 42.1 per cent of physicians billing for critical care‐related services were specialized in emergency medicine (EM). EM had the highest overall MR (median 4.99, IQR 3.60‐6.88) and provided most of the services. MRs differed between genders in select cases (critical care hours: anesthesiology, EM, internal medicine, pulmonary and critical care medicine; CPR, pulmonary and critical care medicine; chest tube placement/thoracentesis, internal medicine). These differences in MR did not correspond to higher rates of Medicare allowable amounts (P = NS). In conclusion, charge markups significantly varied by physician specialty. EM physicians had the highest MRs for most critical care‐related services, including critical care hours, EKG interpretation, CPR, central venous line placement, and emergent endotracheal intubation. EM physicians also provided most of these services. Charge markups are associated with adverse consequences and represent potential targets for cost containment and consumer protection.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2018

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