Lawmakers Call for Access to Medicare Claims Data

Margaret Dick Tocknell, June 20, 2013

A Senate bill would make Medicare claims and payment data available to the public in a searchable database that would be free to use.

On the heels of a Senate Finance Committee hearing that explored a wide range of healthcare pricing and transparency issues, three committee members introduced on Tuesday a bill to make Medicare claims data available to the public.

The Medicare Data Access for Transparency and Accountability Act (Medicare DATA Act) would require the Department of Health and Human Services to issue regulations making Medicare claims and payment data available to the public in a searchable database that would be free to use.

The bill requires that each provider be identified by a "unique identifier that is available to the public...such as the National Provider Identifier." It also clarifies that Medicare payments to physicians and suppliers do not fall under a Freedom of Information exemption.

In introducing the bill in the Senate, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) noted that with only a few exceptions almost all federal spending is available on the Internet through www.openspending.com. "That means virtually every other government program... is more transparent than the Medicare program."

He also sees the effort as countering waste and fraud in the $549 billion Medicare program. "If doctors know that each claim they make will be publicly available, it might deter some wasteful practices and overbilling."

Margaret Dick Tocknell Margaret Dick Tocknell is a reporter/editor with HealthLeaders Media.
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