Study: Southeast Wisconsin’s physician fees 50% higher

Special to The Freeman

June 12, 2014

MILWAUKEE – A study released Thursday shows physician fees in southeastern Wisconsin are almost 50 percent higher, on average, than other Midwest markets.

The Greater Milwaukee Business Foundation on Health’s study found that Southeast Wisconsin physician-payment levels ranged from 4 percent higher than Minneapolis to 74 percent higher than St. Louis.

According to the study, the higher rates increase premiums for employers and individuals in southeastern Wisconsin by about 15 percent when compared with other Midwest markets.

Conducted by consulting firm Milliman using 2012 data, the study compared southeast Wisconsin with payment levels in Chicago; Cincinnati; Cleveland; Des Moines, Iowa; Detroit; Indianapolis; Kansas City; Minneapolis; and St. Louis.

“These significant differences in commercial physician payment levels contributed to higher commercial premium levels in southeast Wisconsin,” said Ron Dix, the foundation’s executive director. “The results of this study deserve our attention if we are going to reduce health care costs as much as possible in our market.”
The study found that in southeastern Wisconsin fees were 44 percent higher for physicians who specialize in family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology. In addition, fees were 55 percent higher for physicians who specialize in cardiac surgery, gastroenterology, general surgery, neurosurgery, ophthalmology, orthopedic surgery, otolaryngology and vascular surgery.

For physicians who specialize in anesthesiology, critical care, diagnostic radiology, emergency medicine and pathology, fees in southeastern Wisconsin were 59 percent higher.

Factors that could influence the higher payments in southeast Wisconsin include differences in operating costs, operational efficiency, physician productivity, payer mix and the related cost-shift burden to commercial payers, investments in care management and quality-improvement initiatives.