Jared Foran, an orthopedic surgeon in Denver, is a co-author of a new study called “Patient Perception of Physician Reimbursement in Elective Total Hip and Knee Arthroplasty” (PDF here). The authors surveyed 1,200 patients to see how much they thought orthopedic surgeons should make and what Medicare actually pays for a hip or knee replacement.
In an e-mail, Foran describes their results:
On average, patients thought that surgeons should receive $18,501 for total hip replacements, and $16,822 for total knee replacements. Patients estimated actual Medicare reimbursement to be $11,151 for total hip replacements and $8,902 for total knee replacements. Seventy per cent of patients stated that Medicare reimbursement was “much lower” than what it should be, and only 1% felt that it was higher than it should be.
In reality, surgeons get paid on average $1,378 for a total hip and $1,430 for a total knee. Thus patients were off by an order of magnitude in their estimates! The disconnect in public knowledge seems extreme.
In short, patients — the most important part of all of health care policy decisions — have absolutely no clue how much doctors get paid. They think we get paid (or, at least, deserve to) about 10 times more than we actually do!
Foran tells us that similar studies have been done for spine surgery and sports medicine, with similar findings.