Senators' bipartisan push would publicize MDs' Medicare claims data

Senators Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced the "Strengthening Program Integrity and Accountability in Health Care Act of 2011" yesterday, with a key provision that would post Medicare claims data, like much other federal spending, on the website.

The data is currently protected from public disclosure by a 1979 court injunction, which found physicians' financial privacy trumped the public's right to know, according to the Wall Street Journal. But when the Journal requested, and received, even a small portion of claims data as part of a special investigation, it reported on a host of practitioners it says were "gaming the system," and one who was ultimately indicted on fraud charges this year.

As a result, the newspaper's publisher, Dow Jones & Co., filed a suit to overturn the 1979 injunction and allow public access to the records. In a written response to the Journal, AMA president Cecil Wilson pushed back, stating that the association has no tolerance for fraud, but "physicians, like all Americans, have the right to privacy regarding their personal financial information, and courts have repeatedly upheld this right."  

For more:
- read the Wall Street Journal article
- read this piece from the Center for Public Integrity
- here's Sen. Grassley's statement