CMS unlocks data on Medicare payments to individual physicians

Information on Medicare payments to physicians will soon become more accessible under a policy change announced Tuesday by CMS.

The agency had previously blocked release of specific Medicare physician-payment data, considering it an invasion of privacy. But last May a federal judge in Florida ruled that public interest superseded physician privacy.

The agency now will evaluate requests on a case-by-case basis, with the policy taking effect in 60 days.

“The decision to modify the policy also takes into account HHS’ strong commitment to greater data transparency over the past several years,” Jonathan Blum, CMS principal deputy administrator on the official CMS blog, wrote, adding that the agency “has engaged with a wide range of public, nonprofit and private sector stakeholders to foster the availability and use of health care data to drive innovations that improve health and health care.”

Blum also said the agency recognizes “valid concerns” expressed by many stakeholders over making the data more transparent.

“We intend to consider the importance of protecting physicians’ privacy and ensuring the accuracy of any data released as well as appropriate protections to limit potential misuse of the information,” Blum wrote.

CMS officials considered 130 comments from more than 300 organizations before revising the policy.

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