Secrecy Stunts Market-Based Healthcare Reforms

Christopher Cheney, April 16, 2014

Medicare's release of physician payment data holds great potential for the industry's shift toward value-based payments. While medical associations are opposed to pay transparency, one physician explains why he supports it.

"When it comes to privacy and accountability, people always demand the former for themselves and the latter for everyone else." – novelist and futurist, David Brin

Transparency is a prominent panel in the patchwork quilt of federally driven healthcare reform efforts across the country. In particular, transparency in billing for medical services is widely viewed as a critical component in establishing a value-based US healthcare system.

The logic is compelling: Informed patients will seek out physicians who provide high-quality medical services at the lowest cost, informed physicians will use data to improve the efficiency of their practices, and informed health plans will apply pressure to healthcare providers who fall short of providing value to their patients.

But last week, the American Medical Association, Medical Group Management Association, and other physician groups blasted federal officials over the release of Medicare physician payment data that had been kept secret under a court injunction since 1979. The justification for keeping the data secret included this dire warning—payment confusion would spread throughout the land and careers would be unjustly destroyed.

AMA President Ardis Dee Hoven, in a statement released by her organization, made clear why she's opposed to the Medicare data dump, "releasing the data without context will likely lead to inaccuracies, misinterpretations, false conclusions, and other unintended consequences."

Christopher Cheney

Christopher Cheney is the senior finance editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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