Medicare Releases Data on Payments to Physicians

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services today released a trove of data on the agency's payments to physicians. This information has long been sought for its value in detecting and deterring fraud and waste.

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Information for Economic Opportunity: Ensuring Equal Pay through Transparency

Today is Equal Pay Day, the date representing how far into the new year the average woman would have to work in order to earn the same as the average man did in the previous year. In recognition, President Obama took executive actions and the Senate began work on a bill, all aimed at closing the pay gap and ensuring women earn equal pay for equal work. Each of these efforts is based on the same premise: that better access to information can expand economic opportunity.

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Medicare Announces It Will Publish Payment Data

In a major win for transparency, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced on April 2 that it will release physician reimbursement data. This data, previously kept confidential, contains information about how much the federal government pays to most Medicare providers. The data will not compromise or disclose any patient privacy information.

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Congress Puts Medicare Transparency on Back Burner

On March 31, Congress once again kicked the can down the road by passing its 17th temporary patch to Medicare's reimbursement rate. This one-year extension does not include a crucial transparency reform, proposed in previous Medicare bills this session, which would have required the release of Medicare's physician payment data. This missed opportunity means Medicare, one of the largest government programs, will continue to receive less oversight and accountability than other areas of federal spending.

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House Bill on Medicare Payment Transparency Undermined by Poison Pill Provision

On March 14, the House passed the SGR Repeal and Medicare Provider Payment Modernization Act (H.R. 4015), which includes provisions on Medicare data transparency. Among other things, the bill would require Medicare to publicly disclose data on reimbursements made to physicians while protecting patients' privacy. The legislation would direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to release payment data on Physician Compare, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services' online physician database. Unfortunately, the bill also contains a "poison pill" – the repeal of the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate – rendering it unworkable in its current form.

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Q & A With Daphne Greenwood: How Outsourcing Can Harm Communities

Egregious examples of government contractors fleecing the public abound. But how does the outsourcing of government functions to contractors and the erosion of the public sector affect society?

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Q & A With Philip Mattera: Tens of Billions in State and Local Subsidies Annually Go to Big Business

States and local governments strike deals with corporations all the time – deals that normal people like you and I would have a hard time getting and deals that often deprive our governments of revenue even as promises of job creation often disappoint. These tax breaks, publicly funded cash incentives, free buildings, and worker training are done in the name of keeping or wooing businesses. Until relatively recently, the public mostly knew about these subsidies on an anecdotal basis.

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Public Accountability in Public-Private Partnerships

The nonprofit group In The Public Interest (ITPI) released a white paper last week outlining what state and local governments should do when considering using public-private partnerships for infrastructure projects like roads. For anyone interested in maintaining democratic control of public structures as well as getting a good deal for the public, ITPI’s paper is a great starting point for designing and modifying laws and policies to achieve those goals.

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Long Overdue: Obama to Raise Minimum Wage for Federal Contractor Employees

In advance of his State of the Union speech tonight, the White House announced President Barack Obama will sign an executive order – which does not require congressional approval – to raise the wage floor to $10.10 for the lowest paid workers at companies that work on new federal government contracts.

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Medicare Spending Data May Be Publicly Available Under New Policy

On Jan. 14, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a new policy that could bring greater transparency to Medicare, one of the largest programs in the federal government. CMS revoked its long-standing policy not to release publicly any information about Medicare’s payments to doctors. Under the new policy, the agency will evaluate requests for such information on a case-by-case basis. Although the impact of the change is not yet clear, it creates an opportunity for a welcome step forward for data transparency and open government.

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