For the first time, Medicare, the U.S. health plan for the disabled and elderly, will disclose data on its payments to about 550,000 individual doctors.
Through a letter, the U.S. Centers for Medicine and Medical Services told the Medical Association that it will release the data on April 9. Payments from the estimated $635 billion program to doctors for their medical services and procedures will be disclosed including the differences between the payments from their peers and the locations they were carried out.
The battle by the AMA and other physicians associations for the release of information about doctors’ Medicare payments has been on for more than 30 years. In reference to Bloomberg BNA, a federal judge lifted a 33-year-old injunction in May last year which prohibited the Medicare agency from disclosing payment data that could be used to identify individual doctors.
Jonathan Blum, deputy administrator for the Medicare agency posted in a blog on Thursday saying such data can shed a light on how care is delivered in the Medicare program and this would help consumers in comparing the services offered as well as payments received by individual care givers.
In a statement, Ardis Dee Hoven, the association’s president, said in a statement that while AMA is “committed to transparency” and support the release of some doctor data, the group urges the government to give care givers a chance to review and amend their information before its publication.
However, Hoven said that AMA is concerned that the CMS’ broad approach could mislead the public in to making wrong treatment decisions and may result in unwarranted bias against physicians, destroying careers.
It is after the lifting of the injunction in May that the Obama administration started drafting a policy about how to handle requests for the information under the Freedom of Information Act. Regulations outlining the policy were published in January, and later received multiple FIOA requests, according to Blum in a letter to AMA.
About $70 billion were paid by Medicare to physicians in 2012 for services rendered in their offices, in reference to the program’s trustees. According to Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, about 550,000 physicians billed the program that year, calling for Congress to make policy changes in the program.
Blum stated that improved transparency in the health-care system will perk up the quality of care, especially following the enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.