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U.S. doctors face high costs dealing with multiple insurers

August 10, 2011 | 11:19 am

U.S. doctors spend huge amounts of time haggling with insurance companies about billings, claims and other administrative matters, driving up costs and interfering with patient care, a new study has found. DOCTOR IMAGE 22

The time spent by doctors and their staffs on paperwork winds up costing each physician nearly $83,000 a year, about four times as much as doctors spend in Canada, according to U.S. and Canadian researchers who released their findings in the online journal Health Affairs.

Canada runs a single-payer healthcare system in which the government pays the bills. In the United States, doctors must negotiate with multiple insurers who offer numerous types of insurance policies and levels of coverage.

If U.S. doctors had slimmed-down administrative costs similar to those in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province,  they would trim more than $27 billion a year in healthcare spending, the researchers found.

“When these inefficiencies result in frequent interruptions in the work of physicians and their staff, they are likely to interfere with patient care,” the authors wrote. “Everyone — health plans, physicians and their staffs and patients — will be better off if inefficiencies in transactions between physicians and health plans can be reduced.”


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-- Duke Helfand

Photo credit: Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times