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Medicare Pay 'Transparency' Divides Physicians

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, September 5, 2013

The issue of whether physician reimbursement data should be made public is creating a split among doctors. Some argue that the public has a right to know how tax dollars are being spent. Others fear payment disclosures could hurt competition.

Despite the government's stated "strong commitment to greater transparency" in healthcare, whether doctors want to publicly divulge payments they receive from Medicare is questionable. That became clear recently when the American College of Physician Executives polled its members about whether they favored public disclosure of physician payments. Peter Angood, MD, the ACPE's CEO, thought, surely, they would vote to support openness.

But when asked last month if they thought data about Medicare payments to physicians should be made public, the response is almost evenly split, with 46% of responding members saying "no" and 42% saying "yes," according to an American College of Physicians Executives poll of 508 members. An additional 12% were unsure.

The results were not exactly the 60% to 70% that Angood thought might favor transparency. "I thought it would be a little more skewed" in the direction of transparency, Angood says.

The ACPE carried out its survey in the wake of court action and Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services' inquiries around the "transparency" issue about physician pay for possible rule-making that could change decades of federal policy that kept doc moneymaking under wraps.

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