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Senators want access to Medicare claims database

The Wall Street Journal, March 3, 2011

Two senators, a Republican and a Democrat, are pushing legislation to overturn a 1979 court injunction that bars the public from seeing what individual physicians earn from Medicare. That data, commonly known as the Medicare claims database, is widely considered one of the best tools for identifying fraud and abuse in the $500 billion federal health-insurance program for the elderly and disabled. Last year The Wall Street Journal, together with the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity, obtained from the government limited access to the database. Despite severe restrictions on the data, the paper was able to mine it and expose through a series of articles how doctors and other medical practitioners appear to be gaming Medicare to increase their profits. One physical therapist identified by the Journal as having suspicious billing patterns was indicted last month on charges of defrauding Medicare.

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