Medicare to release doc payment, service data

The Obama administration, in the wake of a recent industry-wide price transparency movement, will release data on services provided by doctors who participate in Medicare, according to an announcement from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

CMS plans to release the 2012 data on more than 880,000 doctors and other healthcare providers as well as the Medicare payments they received, which total $77 billion. 

"We plan to provide the public unprecedented access to information about the number and type of healthcare services that individual physicians and certain other healthcare professionals delivered in 2012, and the amount Medicare paid them for those services, beginning not earlier than April 9," CMS Principal Deputy Administrator Jonathan Blum wrote. "Providing consumers with this information will help them make more informed choices about the care they receive."

In 1979, a Florida court ruled the federal government could not release physician-specific data about doctors' Medicare reimbursements; the injunction was only vacated last year.

Proponents of the disclosure say it will help consumers better understand the healthcare system and give journalists and watchdog organizations valuable fraud-detection tools, according to the Washington Post. The information "can help consumers compare the services provided and payments received by individual healthcare providers," Blum wrote. "Businesses and consumers alike can use these data to drive decision-making and reward quality, cost-effective care. We look forward to describing how this information can inform consumers and healthcare providers when we release this data in the near future."

Physician groups such as the American Medical Association (AMA), however, strongly oppose the move, arguing that the public could misinterpret the information. "The AMA is concerned that CMS' broad approach to releasing physician payment data will mislead the public into making inappropriate and potentially harmful treatment decisions and will result in unwarranted bias against physicians that can destroy careers," AMA President Ardis Dee Hoven, M.D., said in a statement to the media.

To learn more:
- read the blog post
- read the Washington Post article