From a rather telling New York Times article:
A study published this month in the journal Health Affairs made me think of my colleague again and offered one likely possibility for his return to Canada: There, he had more time to focus on his patients.
Researchers asked hundreds of physicians and administrators in private practices across the United States and Canada how much time they spent each day with insurers and other third-party payers, tracking down information for claims that were denied or incorrectly paid, resolving questions about insurance coverage for prescription drugs or diagnostic tests, and filing the different forms required by each and every insurance company.
Physicians in Canada, where health care is administered mainly by the government, did spend a good deal of time and money communicating with their payers. But American doctors in the study spent far more dealing with multiple health plans: more than $80,000 per year per physician, or roughly four times as much as their northern counterparts. And their offices spent as many as 21 hours per week with payers, nearly 10 times as much as the Canadian offices.
“The amount of time we spend on this is just crazy,” said Dr. Sara L. Star, a partner in a three-physician pediatrics practice in suburban Chicago. “But each insurance company has its own language, its own set of rules and specific contracts with certain laboratories, hospitals, physicians and pharmaceutical companies.”
And when those companies offer multiple “insurance products,” the convoluted coverage grid acquires yet another level of complexity. Each “product” comes with its own unique permutation and combination of authorization requirements, rules for claims and list of approved prescription drugs.