The Obama administration decided last week to make all Medicare payment information public. A scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, Joe Antos reported according to Bloomberg News that, this information “will benefit not just consumers and the taxpayers but ultimately the health-care sector because it will shine some light in some dark corners where, frankly, health-care providers should improve the way they practice.”
Consumers can now see the type of doctor and how many procedures a doctor billed Medicare for, the sums which were paid to a doctor, how that amount compares to their peers and which doctors made the most from the program. The American Medical Association fought for 35 years in court to keep the information private.
Medicare paid nearly 4,000 physicians in excess of $1 million each in 2012, according to the new released data. According to the Washington Post, those figures do not include what the doctors billed private insurance firms. The data filed released showed according to Bloomberg News, a concentration at the top. Doctors who made more than $1 million received at least 13 times the $77,000 average paid by the program. The top 3 percent among doctors who received payments collected more than $17.6 billion or about $788,000 on average. The remaining 802,711 individual providers collected $46 billion or less than $58,000 each on average. Doctors said they thought that the data incorrectly showed them as making millions of dollars from Medicare.
A former special assistant to President Barack Obama for health care policy, Bob Kocher, said in an interview that “This is an enormous event,” according to Bloomberg News, Bob Kocher said, “What it’s going to help us do for the first time is figure out what these doctors actually do and what kinds of patients they actually see.”
“We believe that the broad data dump today by CMS has significant shortcomings regarding the accuracy and value of the medical services rendered by physicians,” said AMA President Dr. Ardis Dee Hoven. “Releasing the data without context will likely lead to inaccuracies, misinterpretations, false conclusions and other unintended consequences.”
It has been reported that one of the reasons CMS, the nation’s largest doctors group, officials gave for releasing the data was to aid in the search for healthcare fraud and abuse.
According to USA Today, the data that was released by the Center for Medicare Services was after a court order lifted an injunction sought by the American Medical Association that had been in place since 1979.