Medicare data release on doc payments to bring new transparency era
Many physicians will be waiting with trepidation as the CMS prepares to release, as early as Wednesday, a data base detailing what Medicare paid to all participating doctors in 2012.
The CMS will publish physician-specific data on $77 billion in payments to 880,000 physicians through Medicare’s Part B physician program. The information is supposed to show the number and type of services provided by each physician, how much the doctor billed for, and the amount that he or she was actually paid.
Physician groups long have resisted release of this information, and the CMS only recently took the position that it had the authority to disclose it. The agency originally said it would release the data only in response to Freedom of Information Act requests, but last week said it would broadly release the information.
Advocates for transparency in healthcare prices, quality, and utilization say the data could reveal patterns of wasteful and fraudulent services and billing and help curb Medicare spending. Physicians’ groups say the information is bound to be misinterpreted.
The data “will mislead the public into making inappropriate and potentially harmful treatment decisions and will result in unwarranted bias against physicians that can destroy careers,” said Dr. Ardis Dee Hoven, president of the American Medical Association. “We have witnessed these inaccuracies in the past.”
But some say the data release could work to physicians’ advantage. Former AMA Science and Public Health Council chairman Dr. Melvyn Sterling, a palliative-care physician from Orange, Calif., said the data may highlight that Medicare rates haven’t kept pace with inflation and that doctors need a raise.