Lawmakers Call for Access to Medicare Claims Data
At Tuesday's Senate Finance Committee meeting, there was a general acknowledgement that CMS has control of a treasure trove of healthcare pricing and quality information. "All data on price, utilization, and quality of healthcare should be made available to the public unless there is a compelling reason not to do so," stated Giovanni Colella, MD, CEO of Castlight Health, which provides healthcare cost and quality information to employers. Colella was one of four witnesses asked to speak at the hearing.
"What's the responsible argument, if there is one, why CMS should not release all this data?" asked Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), chair of the Senate Finance Committee. "I have never heard one."
"There is no compelling argument," responded Sen. Wyden. "This is a treasure trove of valuable information that needs to be released in a way that's sensitive to protecting personal issues. Once we get this information it will give us lots of clarity with respect to practice patterns across the country. For the first time we'll actually know what Medicare reimburses for specific services."
Historically, some large and influential provider groups have objected to the release of certain data. Until recently, a decades-old court injunction supported the American Medical Association's stand that the release of individual physician records is a privacy violation. In May a federal judge vacated the injunction at the behest of several news organizations. The AMA is reportedly considering its options.
Efforts to reach the AMA to comment on the Medicare DATA Act were unsuccessful.
Margaret Dick Tocknell is a reporter/editor with HealthLeaders Media.
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