CMS data should give reporters a plethora of new stories to cover

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News, the Connecticut Health I-Team and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

As Charles Ornstein pointed out, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced that it will release payment information for individual physicians in response to Freedom of Information Act requests, beginning in March. The move will increase transparency while still protecting the privacy of Medicare beneficiaries, according to a blog post by Jonathan Blum, principal deputy administrator.

According to a story in Modern Healthcare, the AMA has warned the Obama administration that it will be walking a thin line between balancing physician privacy rights with release of payment data – and that poor execution of the policy could lead to an unfair breach of confidentiality for providers and patients.

The article includes comments from spokespersons for both the AMA — which strongly opposes the move — and the Council for Affordable Healthcare, who said the policy change should go even further. Medscape’s story coverage includes some pertinent comments made by media and consumer rights organizations during the public comment period.

Reporters should be able to capitalize on this newly available data to investigate issues of overtreatment, overbilling or bogus claims, patterns in hospital admissions, prescribing, disparities in care and treatment, commonalities and differences in care and treatment, and cost containment.

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