Legislators introduce bill for open, accessible Medicare claims database

Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) have introduced legislation this week that would open up all Medicare claims to public scrutiny, noting that additional Medicare claims transparency could curb wasteful overspending, according to an announcement from Wyden's office.

Combining their efforts, the senators' proposed bill--the Medicare Data Access for Transparency and Accountability Act (Medicare DATA Act) would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to issue regulations to make a searchable Medicare payment database available for free online. The bill also makes clear that data on Medicare payments to physicians and suppliers don't qualify as Freedom of Information Act exemptions.

"Taxpayers have a right to see how their dollars are being spent," Grassley said in the announcement. "There shouldn't be a special exception for hard-earned dollars that happen to be spent through Medicare."

Recently, it was revealed that Medicare could have saved $910 million on lab test payments if it would have paid providers at the lowest established rate in each geographic area, according to a report from the Office of the Inspector General.

Despite a recent federal ruling affirming that Medicare data should be public, the senators think the information needs to be more transparent, which they say is also due to the prevalence of healthcare fraud. The proposed legislation calls for the database to be made available no later than December 31, 2014, and that the database should contain information for every year after.

To learn more:
- read the announcement
- read the text of the proposed legislation

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