Medicare Releases Billing Data for Physicians
A long standing Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) policy that barred the release of information about the dollars paid to individual physicians was recently lifted, allowing the Agency to publicly share information on the number and types of services submitted to and paid by Medicare.
The data includes information on every test and procedure billed to Medicare Part B by individual doctors in all 50 states during calendar year 2012. Only those providers who submitted 10 or less claims to the Medicare program are excluded from information contained in the database. The change comes after a years-long battle over the ability of the federal government to release physician specific payment information.
Historically, any release of the data was viewed as an invasion of privacy. Legal battles since the 1980s as well as a new focus in healthcare on increased transparency and fraud detection prompted the change. While many believe the data will offer new ways to look at just how much physicians earn under the Medicare program, others believe the information could include inaccuracies, resulting in unwarranted bias against some physicians.
CMS cautions that the file contains cost and utilization information only, and the volume of procedures presented may not be fully inclusive of all procedures performed by a provider.
The Agency has not yet confirmed if it will be releasing data from previous years, but has indicated it will be releasing updated hospital data before the end of June.