The List: Eye Doctors Top List of NJ Physicians Paid the Most by Medicare

Andrew Kitchenman | December 1, 2014 | Health Care, The List
Payments linked to some doctors soar into millions of dollars, but raw numbers don’t necessarily reflect take-home pay for those who head up medical groups

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Eye doctors dominate the list of the New Jersey physicians who are paid the most by the federal Medicare program.

The payment data, which was released by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) earlier this year, reflects the Part B program. It covers medically necessary and preventive services, including some surgeon’s fees, but doesn’t cover hospital or nursing bills.

The totals don’t necessarily reflect the doctors’ take-home pay, since many providers may use an individual’s federal ID number to bill Medicare. In addition, the payments support the doctors’ costs to operate their practices.

For example, Wrightstown pathologist Michael C. McGinnis received the third largest amount of any doctor in the country and more than twice as much as the second-highest-paid New Jersey doctor. But he explained to CNBC that 28 different pathologists used his ID number.

However, the data does reflect some trends in medicine. For example, while the number of female doctors has been growing for decades, none of the 34 New Jersey doctors who Medicare paid the most were women.

And ophthalmology has an outsized role on the list, with eye doctors accounting for five of the top 10 doctors. NJ Retina, a practice that specializes in retina surgeries, has 15 of the 32 highest-paid doctors. Those 15 ophthalmologists were paid a total of $55.1 million. The doctors with practices in Kenilworth and New Brunswick in the list below are part of NJ Retina.

Federal officials have said that the public was entitled to have access to the payment data and that its release would be helpful to identify potential areas where costs could be lowered.

The news service ProPublica found that the doctors who were paid the most across the nation submitted bills for more complex services than the vast majority of doctors. ProPublica developed a database that allows people to search for their doctors by name and see whether their practice patterns are similar to their peers’.

The medical specialties in New Jersey that submitted the highest number of bills to Medicare were: internal medicine, with 3,384 providers; physical therapy, 1,987; family practice, 1,510; chiropractic, 1,422; and anesthesiology, 1,243.

The American Medical Association has criticized the release of the data, saying that it would result in misinterpretations and false conclusions. The AMA received a federal injunction in 1979 to prevent the data from being disclosed, but a lawsuit by Dow Jones & Co., the parent of The Wall Street Journal, successfully challenged it. A judge ruled that the public’s interest in knowing how tax dollars were spent outweighed doctors’ right to privacy.

The following list includes the doctor’s name, location, specialty and total amount paid from Medicare.

1. $12,577,017.34

Michael C. McGinnis, Wrightstown, Pathology

2. $5,130,375.75

Paul J. Svigals, Cherry Hill, Diagnostic Radiology

3. $5,091,240.92

Christopher Seery, Kenilworth, Ophthalmology

4. $4,955,098.89

Jonathan L. Prenner, New Brunswick, Ophthalmology

5. $4,291,030.00

Mark Macher, Edison, Radiation Oncology

6. $4,285,225.03

Michael B. Wax, Berkeley Heights, Hematology/Oncology

7. $4,171,233.42

Scott G. Foxman, Northfield, Ophthalmology

8. $4,067,898.98

Leonard Feiner, Kenilworth, Ophthalmology

9. $3,924,052.45

Naim T. Nazha, Northfield, Medical Oncology

10. $3,857,445.65

Howard F. Fine, New Brunswick, Ophthalmology