AHCJ’s board of directors called on the federal government to release data on physician payments and utilization of services in the Medicare program.
In a letter sent Tuesday (PDF) to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the board said the release of the information is “long overdue.”
“The value of such information to the public far outweighs any privacy claims of physicians,” said the letter, signed by AHCJ executive director Len Bruzzese. “As long as patient confidentiality is protected, we see no reason why taxpayers should not know how individual physicians are spending public dollars.”
The letter came in response to CMS’ call for comments last month about whether and how it should release data on physician spending in Medicare Part B, the outpatient component of the program. A U.S. District Court in Florida overturned a 1979 injunction that had blocked the public release of data identifying payments to individual doctors. Dow Jones, which publishes The Wall Street Journal, challenged the injunction.
“The U.S. District Court was correct in lifting the 1979 injunction in response to dramatic changes in the health care landscape over the past three decades,” AHCJ’s letter said. “Beyond that, we believe an informed public makes better health care decisions.”
AHCJ cited stories by The Wall Street Journal and the Center for Public Integrity as examples of how reporters can use physician claims data for stories in the public interest. But it said those stories would have had wider resonance if the organizations were able to name physicians and allow members of the public to look up their own doctors. Continue reading