Senators Push Transparency in Medicare Pay

Friday, 08 Apr 2011 01:09 PM

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Two senators have joined a growing campaign to make public what doctors earn from Medicare,  The Wall Street Journal reports. The bipartisan duo of Chuck Grassley (R) and Ron Wyden on Thursday introduced a bill to overturn a decades-old court decision forbidding the government from publicizing how much Medicare pays out to surgeons, physicians and specialists.

medicare, payments, doctorsThe bill, touted as a measure to combat Medicare fraud, coincides with a court challenge by the Journal’s parent company, Dow Jones, to the 1979 ruling that shielded doctors’ Medicare reimbursements from Freedom of Information Act requests.

The Journal and the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity, using severely limited access to Medicare’s claims database, published articles identifying patterns of potentially fraudulent overbilling by a number of medical professionals. The coverage has led to the indictment of one physical therapist on fraud charges.

The American Medical Association opposes the release of Medicare pay data by name, calling it an invasion of practitioners’ privacy — the argument made successfully in court in 1979 — and harmful to the doctor-patient relationship. The Medicare Data Access for Transparency and Accountability Act would keep patients’ identities confidential.


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