CMS Seeks Physicians’ Views on Making Payment Data Public

August 23, 2013

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services is inviting physicians to comment on a proposal to make individual physician payment data accessible to the public.

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services is inviting physicians to comment on a proposal to make individual physician payment data accessible to the public.

The proposal follows a May 2013 federal district court ruling that struck down a decades-old injunction prohibiting the agency from publically disclosing reimbursement data for individual physicians. The American Medical Association long opposed lifting the injunction, contending that it violated physicians’ rights under the Privacy Act. However, the group did not file an appeal of the court’s decision by the July 30 deadline.

Currently, journalists and other outside parties still have to file a Freedom of Information Act request to access the physician payment database. CMS is now trying to develop appropriate policies for disclosing the data and making it more accessible to the wider public.

In an August 6 blog post, CMS said the proposal is in line with its efforts to “usher in a new era of transparency.” Earlier this year, for example, it released average charges for the 100 most common inpatient services and average charges for 30 selected outpatient procedures. The agency noted that none of these transparency efforts include information that could directly or indirectly identify patients.

“CMS recognizes the potential for transforming the health care system that our data provides,” said the blog post. “By making our charge information public, we can help promote initiatives that can reduce costs and improve quality. This is only the latest step CMS is taking to increase transparency, but it won’t be the last.”

CMS asked physicians to address the following questions regarding the current proposal:

- Do physicians have a privacy interest in information concerning payments they receive from Medicare? If so, how should we weigh the balance between that privacy interest and the public interest in disclosure of Medicare payment information?

- What specific policies should CMS consider with respect to disclosure of individual physician payment data that will further the goals of improving the quality and value of care, enhancing access and availability of CMS data, increasing transparency in government, and reducing fraud, waste, and abuse within CMS programs?

- If CMS chooses to release physician payment information, what form should it take? (For example, should it include line item claim details?)

Physicians can submit feedback by email until September 5, 2013.