Medicare will soon begin releasing payment data for individual physicians on a "case-by-case basis,” the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced this week.
The agency had previously blocked release of specific Medicare physician-payment data, considering it an invasion of privacy. But last May a federal judge in Florida ruled that public interest superseded physician privacy.
Jonathan Blum, principal deputy administrator for CMS, said in a statement posted on Jan.14 that the modifications, posted in the Federal Register, will improve transparency and accessibility for the public while maintaining the privacy of Medicare beneficiaries. The new policy will take effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. In addition, CMS will generate and make available aggregate data sets regarding Medicare physician services for public consumption.
“The decision to modify the policy also takes into account HHS’ strong commitment to greater data transparency over the past several years,” Blum said in the statement. “In 2010, HHS launched the Health Data Initiative to promote transparent, innovative, and safe data use. As part of this effort, CMS has engaged with a wide range of public, non-profit, and private sector stakeholders to foster the availability and use of healthcare data to drive innovations that improve health and healthcare.”
In May 2013, CMS released information on the average charges for the 100 most common inpatient services at more than 3,000 hospitals nationwide.
Blum admits that CMS also recognizes the valid concerns raised by many stakeholders over protecting the integrity of the data. “As CMS makes a determination about how and when to disclose any information on a physician’s Medicare payment, we intend to consider the importance of protecting physicians’ privacy and ensuring the accuracy of any data released as well as appropriate protections to limit potential misuse of the information. And as always, we are committed to protecting the privacy of Medicare beneficiaries,” he said.
In making the decision to replace the prior policy, the agency considered more than 130 comments representing the views of over 300 organizations and individuals.