- Associated Press - Monday, April 14, 2014

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - Six doctors in South Dakota each received more than $1 million in payments from Medicare in 2012, according to new data from the federal government.

The physician data was released earlier this month as part of a move to open the books on health care financing. The data show that in 2012, Medicare paid 267 providers in South Dakota more than $97 million, according to the Argus Leader (http://argusne.ws/1p2SGme ).

“This data will, for the first time, provide a better picture of how physicians practice in the Medicare program,” Jonathan Blum, principal deputy administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in a statement.

The taxpayer-financed Medicare program is for the elderly and disabled.

The American Medical Association opposed the release of the Medicare database, saying it might contain inaccurate information and that even if the payment amounts are correct, they do not provide meaningful insights into the quality of care.

Health care officials in South Dakota said the data fails to convey the complexities of a doctor’s practice. The data show only how much a doctor was paid by Medicare - not how much of that payment was used to pay for overhead, drugs and other expenses related to operating a practice, South Dakota Medical Association President Dan Heineman said.

“I would say the South Dakota Medical Association and its physician members are all about transparency,” he said. “We just want to make sure the data is clear and accurate.”

Aberdeen oncologist Richard Conklin got the most Medicare money in the state in 2012, with $6.7 million. The next-highest amount was $2.5 million to Rapid City ophthalmologist Prema Abraham.

Oncologists treat cancer and ophthalmologists treat eye disorders, two health issues that become more prevalent in older patients. Heineman said those specialties have treatments that rely on expensive drugs - one reason why they have higher reimbursements from Medicare.

“The bulk of their practice is going to be in Medicare,” he said.

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Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com