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Study: Health Insurance Paperwork Costs US Doctors $83,000 Annually.

Study: Health Insurance Paperwork Costs US Doctors $83,000 Annually.
The National Journal (8/4, Fung, Subscription Publication) reported, “Researchers at the University of Toronto said the United States could save about $27.6 billion each year if it followed in Canada’s footsteps by implementing a single-payer health care system, which would cut down on the amount of time and money doctors spend on dealing with multiple insurance companies,” according to a study published online Aug. 3 in the journal Health Affairs. The study found that “doctors spend about $22,000 per physician per year in Ontario,” whereas “doctors in the United States spend almost four times as much — $83,000 — because they must deal with a range of insurance plans, frequently employing an administrator dedicated to sorting out the paperwork.”
The Orlando Sentinel (8/5, Doughman) reports that American physicians “must spend time obtaining authorization for certain medical procedures, which, the authors said, can ultimately save money and prevent doctors from giving inappropriate care.” The study authors also “concluded that American physicians and insurance companies could interact ‘much more efficiently’ if claims were filed electronically rather than via mail or fax.”
What’s more, “medical practices in the US spend nearly four times as many hours a week dealing with insurers than do practices in Canada, at nearly four times the cost,” MedPage Today (8/4, Walker) reported. “US doctors spend only about one hour more each week interacting personally with health plans than their neighbors to the north (3.4 hours versus 2.5), but practice staffers in the US spend nearly 10 times more hours dealing with insurance companies than do the staff of Canadian practices,” the study found.
Medscape (8/4, Crane) reported that the study authors cited “recommendations from the Institute of Medicine and others that include ‘creating common, possibly mandatory standards for billing, claims payment, prior authorization, etc.; making all standard interactions electronic; using a single credentialing process; using a single quality measurement process; and using automated verification at the point of care of patient eligibility for health insurance benefits.'” In addition, they noted that “Section 1104 of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 instructs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to take steps to simplify interactions between providers and health plans.” Finally, “the reform law’s emphasis on new payment methods, such as bundled payments and pay-for-performance, and new ways of organizing healthcare delivery, such as accountable care organizations, could move US health care away from fee-for-service payment,” thereby reducing administrative costs. HealthDay (8/4, Preidt) also covered the story.