If successful, a legal move by The Wall Street Journal could open a flood of now-confidential Medicare data about providers to the public and journalists.
The filing, by parent Dow Jones & Company, seeks to overturn an injunction that “prevents the public from knowing how much taxpayer money individual doctors receive from the Medicare program,” according to a press release.
The Journal has been running a series of stories about Medicare data, showing that the federal government isn’t taking advantage of the data it has to detect fraud. To report the series, the paper and the Center for Public Integrity obtained the data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services but is barred from using the identities of individual providers.
Information about doctors in the Medicare claims database is kept confidential as a result of a lawsuit brought by the American Medical Association more than 30 years ago.
For more information, see “WSJ explains why Medicare data is hidden and “WSJ exposes flaws of Medicare’s pay now, investigate later culture.
The board of directors of the Association of Health Care Journalists has released this statement:
AHCJ strongly supports the release of Medicare payment data that can help journalists better cover both the quality of care provided to patients and the finances of this critical government program. Publicly available information should include physician names connected to these payments. We see little reason why information on payments to doctors should be subjected to greater secrecy than payments to hospitals and nursing homes. The Wall Street Journal‘s coverage demonstrates that data linked to doctors would help inform the public and likely would expose fraud and abuse in the program.