CMS releases more pricing data

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has updated its public databases for inpatient and outpatient payment data, according to a statement from the agency.

The update includes data that compare the average charges for services that may be provided in connection with the 100 most common Medicare inpatient stays at more than 3,000 hospitals nationwide. The information updates data that the agency released last year. CMS also released a dataset that allows users to compare geographic variations in payments made to providers.

The data release reveals what has long been known by healthcare experts: what Medicare paid for specific procedures in 2012 varies widely throughout the country. One hospital in Newark, New Jersey charged Medicare $142,000 to treat heart failure cases, and another facility in the same city charged $32,750, The Hill reported. In another case, Medicare paid a Los Angeles hospital more than $239,000 for a hip replacement procedure, while a facility in Baltimore was paid $15,901.

CMS began to release such pricing information in the past year, after Time magazine published a lengthy 2013 article that concluded hospital chargemaster prices were essentially worthless for consumers. Earlier this spring, it released payment data for individual physicians who participate in the Medicare program.

"These public data resources provide a better understanding of Medicare utilization, the burden of chronic conditions among beneficiaries and the implications for our healthcare system and how this varies by where beneficiaries are located," HHS Chief Technology Officer Bryan Sivak said in the statement. "This information can be used to improve care coordination and health outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries nationwide, and we are looking forward to seeing what the community will do with these releases."

In addition to the pricing data, CMS also released information pertaining to the spending and treatment of chronic conditions such as diabetes and asthma. The Food and Drug Administration also released its long-awaited OpenFDA database, which provides data on adverse drug reactions available to the public in a computer-accessible format for the first time, according to the statement.

To learn more:
- here's the CMS statement
- read The Hill article