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3 of Top 5 Medicare Payments in FL

Three of the top five Medicare payments in 2012 went to doctors who practice in Florida, according to data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The Florida doctors topping the list are Salomon E. Melgen of West Palm Beach (#1), Asad U. Qamar of Ocala (#2) and Alexander M. Eaton of Fort Myers (#5).

Melgen, an ophthalmologist, received nearly $21 million, as the Associated Press reported on Wednesday. Melgen has been under  investigation for excessive billing for several months.

Dr. Qamar, who was paid $18 million, is a cardiologist in Ocala. As USA TODAY reports, he apparently is also under a billing review, based on a letter-writing protest he launched.

Dr. Eaton, an ophthalmologist, received about $10.7 million, but nearly $6 million of that was for the pricey drug Lucentis. It is used to treat macular degeneration. 

Those who want to look up the Medicare revenue and other information about a physician can do so at the New York Times.  

The data release shows that only a small fraction of physicians receive $1 million or more, and sometimes there is a good reason for the high payments. As Jordan Rau with NPR and Kaiser Health News cautions, “the Medicare records omit as much important information as they include.” 

Cancer doctors, for example, have to pay for expensive drugs if they infuse them in their offices. The Tampa Bay Timesnotes that three doctors with Florida Cancer Specialists in Spring Hill are at the top of the list among physicians’ Medicare revenue in that region.  One of those doctors explains in the Times that much of the money goes to pay for expenses such as drugs and lab tests. 

Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012.