Kusserow on Compliance: Medicare overpaying for graduate medical education (GME)

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine raises questions about overpayments by Medicare for graduate medical education (GME) to train residents. By way of background, the Medicare Program makes payments to teaching hospitals for training physician residents. These payments are known as GME payments. Hospitals may also incur real and significant costs beyond training residents in the patient care setting. For those such costs, the Medicare Program makes direct GME (DGME) payments to hospitals for added direct costs incurred by teaching hospitals, such as stipends and/or fringe benefits paid to residents or to faculty who supervise the residents. The JAMA reported study suggests that if Medicare capped funds for GME at $150,000 per resident, it would free up over $1 billion a year and use the savings to address the shortage of doctors in certain specialties in underserved areas. The training of residents is funded by GME payments made to hospitals and health systems, largely through Medicare and Medicaid. Researchers examined cost reports to calculate GME payments to hospitals from 2000 to 2015 at among 1,624 teaching hospitals. The study found GME payment rates to hospitals in 2015 varied significantly, with 25 percent of hospitals receiving less than $105,761 while 25 percent received more than $182,233 per resident. Nearly half of teaching hospitals received more than the $150,000 per resident rate.

Richard P. Kusserow served as DHHS Inspector General for 11 years. He currently is CEO of Strategic Management Services, LLC (SM), a firm that has assisted more than 3,000 organizations and entities with compliance related matters. The SM sister company, CRC, provides a wide range of compliance tools including sanction-screening.

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