Tag Archives: wyden

Senators join fight to open Medicare claims data

Two senators have joined the effort to open up the Medicare claims database that reveals what payments doctors get through the system.

Covering Health readers might remember that Dow Jones & Co. – parent company of The Wall Street Journalfiled a lawsuit in January in its attempt 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.

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Democrat Sen. Ron Wyden from Oregon are pushing legislation to overturn the same 1979 injunction.

Neither senator, nor Dow Jones, seek the release of private patient data. The Medicare claims data has proven useful in fighting fraud and abuse in the system, allowing journalists or investigators to identify anomalies.

Grassley said “he was prompted in part” by articles in The Wall Street Journal about the Medicare database and fraud. Wyden, who spoke at Health Journalism 2009, said he plans to discuss joining forces with Grassley, saying, “I believe we can have a bipartisan bill on this.”

Preventing health care fraud was the subject of a Senate finance committee hearing on Wednesday, where Grassley and Wyden heard from the director of the Center for Program Integrity, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and from Daniel Levinson, inspector general for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Their statements, as well as video of the hearing, are available online.

Congressional health coverage solid, not exclusive

The Oregonian‘s Charles Pope heard all the talk, especially from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), about the desirability of the health coverage members of Congress enjoy and decided to clear up a few misconceptions on the subject.

Sen. Ron Wyden speaks at Health Journalism 2009 in March in Seattle.
(Photo by Clare McLean, University of Washington Medicine)

The coverage Wyden and friends enjoy, while excellent, is no different than that available to millions of other federal employees. These employees are expected to contribute and copay just like most insurance consumers, and don’t get any truly unusual bonuses.

Federal employees do enjoy some advantages over the rest of us, however, primarily because they work for one of the nation’s largest employers and thus enjoy a level of bargaining power that yields a breadth of options not available to those who work for small or medium-sized businesses. Government workers in Washington, D.C., have 23 plans to choose from, Pope said, while in places like Oregon, they still have about a dozen options.

Blog breaks down Wyden’s talk, plan (#ahcj09)

AHCJ board member Ivan Oransky blogged about Sen. Ron Wyden’s talk at Health Journalism 2009 on April 17.

Wyden’s Healthy Americans Act would require nearly everyone to buy health insurance. He believes the way to pay for everyone to be covered is by limiting the tax-exempt status of health insurance premiums.

Oransky lays out some details about Wyden’s plan and brings up some questions that the senator didn’t answer during his presentation.

Sen. Wyden, Freelance PitchFest on tap today (#ahcj09)

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) will be the spotlight speaker at today’s luncheon where he will talk about health care reform under a new president. Wyden sponsors the Healthy Americans Act, a proposal that he says would “provide affordable, high quality, private health coverage for everyone regardless of where they work or live.”

The luncheon will be followed by a series of drawings. Be sure to visit the Exhibit Hall between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. for the chance to win one of these: a digital audio recorder, an iPod nano, a $50 dining card or a Starbucks gift pack. Remember, our exhibitors’ support helps us keep AHCJ conference registration such a great deal.

This afternoon, our freelance members will have a chance to meet editors and pitch stories to them in a fast-paced Freelance PitchFest. This is the second year we’ve offered this and demand was high for appointments with the editors.


If you’re on Twitter, follow the action using the hashtag #ahcj09 … for those of you not yet on Twitter, you can see what’s going on here.