Senators push to open Medicare database
Two senators have introduced legislation to overturn a 1979 court injunction that bars the government from revealing what individual physicians earn from Medicare. That information is stored in the Medicare-claims database, widely considered one of the best tools for finding fraud and abuse in the $500 billion federal health-insurance program for the elderly and disabled. The Medicare Data Access for Transparency and Accountability Act, or DATA Act, was introduced Thursday by Sens. Ron Wyden (D., OR) and Charles Grassley (R., IA). They both serve on the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicare. The Wall Street Journal, together with the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity, obtained from the government limited access to the database last year. Despite severe restrictions on using the data, the Journal was able to mine it and publish a series of articles exposing how doctors and other medical practitioners appear to be gaming Medicare to increase revenue.
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