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Fam Pract Manag. 2007;14(10):12

State task force studying doctor pay

Doctors in Maryland are just like doctors anywhere else: They feel underpaid by health insurers. But unlike many other states, Maryland is investigating the issue.

The state's Task Force on Health Care Access and Reimbursement, created as part of a bill passed during the Maryland General Assembly's 2007 legislative session, is exploring the problem of low reimbursement and its potential effects on patients.

“The issues of access and reimbursement are closely linked,” said Maryland Health Secretary John M. Colmers, chairman of the task force, quoted in the Baltimore Sun. He argued that if pay is low, doctors could become scarce, creating access problems for patients.

The task force's final report is expected by midsummer 2008.

Industry and teaching physicians

A recent study found that 60 percent of department chairs in U.S. medical schools and large teaching hospitals had a financial relationship with or interest in a public or private company, including pharmaceutical and technology companies. These relationships are noteworthy because of their potential influence on medical research and education. Here's how those relationships broke down:

Study adds up cost of annual physicals

A study led by the University of Pittsburgh could help inform the ongoing debate over the worth of annual physicals. The study found that 44.4 million adults – roughly one-fifth of the U.S. population – receive a yearly preventive health exam, with family physicians and general practitioners performing 37.1 percent of the physicals.

In addition, 19.4 million women receive preventive gynecological exams. Together, these annual exams account for 8 percent of all ambulatory visits per year by U.S. adults. They also cost an estimated $7.8 billion.

The study found that many of the exams included routine tests such as complete blood cell counts (which cost $143 million per year) or urinalyses ($49 million per year) that might not be necessary.

“Most patients believe they should see a doctor every year for a physical in which the doctor will examine them from head to toe and order lots of tests,” the study's lead author Ateev Mehrotra, MD, MPH, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “There are many doctors who disagree. Physicians need to reach greater consensus on what we should advise patients to do.”

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