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Medicare Pay 'Transparency' Divides Physicians

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, September 5, 2013

Prompted by the court ruling, CMS is seeking feedback to determine what specific policies it should consider with respect to disclosure of individual payment data that will further the agency's goals of improving the quality and value of care. It also seeks to determine in what form the agency should release "information about individual physician payment, should CMS choose to release it."

"In light of this recent legal development and our ongoing commitment to greater transparency in the health care system, CMS is not considering public disclosure of any information that could directly or indirectly reveal patient-identifiable information," CMS has stated.

Still, for physicians unhappy with the move toward transparency, there are questions about the process and potential data collection. "If you are talking about individual doctors and pushing out line-item payments, it's hard to imagine it will do anybody any good," says Salwitz, the New Jersey physician.

For one thing, "the data is completely unintelligible and the overhead for physician practices [varies] massively," he says. In the long run, such disclosures could hurt smaller practices because larger practitioners and healthcare corporations would have access to data that could undermine competition, Salwitz says. It could even impact physicians in their private lives, for instance, when outsiders, such as realtors evaluate their earning power, he says.

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