Medicare Releases Data on Payments to Physicians
by Gavin Baker, 4/9/2014
On the heels of its announcement last week, 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.
The newly available data provides "over nine million rows of data on more than 880,000 physicians and other healthcare professionals." The data, which is organized by provider or type of service, includes information about the number of Medicare-reimbursed services performed by physicians, the average amount of charges submitted for medical procedures, and the typical amount paid to physicians for medical services.
Access to this data has already enabled news outlets – such as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post – to research how these public funds are utilized. For instance, The Wall Street Journal notes, "the data—despite several limitations—could help pinpoint doctors who overtreat patients, performing far more surgeries, procedures and other services than their peers."
In September 2013, the Center for Effective Government, along with 13 other organizations, filed comments calling for public access to this data. As we wrote at the time, "The public has a fundamental right to know how government spends public funds."
This is the first time in Medicare's history that this data has been fully available to the public. Coming soon after Congress fell short on a provision requiring similar disclosure, today's release is a big victory for government transparency.
Leslie Haymon contributed to this article.