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Senators Publicly Angle for More Medicare Data Transparency

July 30, 2013
by Gabriel Perna
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In editorial presented by Politico, Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) argued in support of legislation that would require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to create a free, online searchable database of Medicare claims data. 

Grassley and Wyden say that through the transparency of this data, Americans will be able to lower their healthcare costs by figuring out how much Medicare pays for certain procedures and comparing prices of various providers. They claim that transparency of this data would allow patients to see “the wide price variations between nearby hospitals, clinics and doctors’ offices”

“Markets work best when information is transparent for buyers and suppliers. But in most instances today, patients lack any comparative information and usually don’t find out the cost of their care until after the fact — if at all,” Grassley and Wyden write.

Currently, the senators say, the database is only available to a small number of bureaucrats and academics. The legislation, which was put on the floor last month and read by Congress twice is now being referred to the Committee on Finance, would change that.

It comes at a time when the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is releasing more and more outpatient claims data to the public. This movement has been met by praise as well as skepticism, even as some organizations have being doing this for several years. The CMS has yet to announce if any more claims data will be released to the public.


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