Legislators revive efforts to mandate Medicare claims database

Despite Medicare data-sharing efforts announced last fall by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) aren't convinced enough is being done to make Medicare claims data transparent. To that end, the pair plan to reintroduce legislation to congress that calls for the development of a publicly accessible and searchable Medicare payment database.

Grassley and Wyden, in an announcement posted to Wyden's website on Monday, declare that it's time to "try new things" to bolster transparency.

"Medicare claims data transparency seems to be moving in the right direction, but we're just not there yet," Wyden said. "Aggregated data and statistical averages can hide differences between providers and settings, and don't allow Americans to truly compare their healthcare choices. In order to enjoy the benefits of full transparency, Medicare claims should be readily available to the public."

The legislation that will be reintroduced--the Medicare Data Access for Transparency and Accountability Act (Medicare DATA Act)--was introduced in April 2011, but died in committee. In addition to requiring the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to create a searchable Medicare payment database, the bill also ensures that data on Medicare payments to physicians and suppliers would not be subject to exemption under the Freedom of Information Act.

"Medicare is a $500 billion program with billions of dollars going out in error each year," Grassley said. "The bad actors get bigger and bolder all the time. They stay out of law enforcement's reach all too often. … More transparency about billing and payments increases public understanding of where tax dollars go and fosters accountability."

To learn more:
- here's the announcement
- here's the legislation to be reintroduced

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