The Obama administration announced Wednesday it would for the first time release data about health-care services provided by doctors who participate in Medicare, in what officials hailed as a major step toward making the health-care system more transparent and accountable.
As early as next week, the administration plans to release information about the number and type of health-care services delivered by more than 880,000 physicians in 2012, as well as how much Medicare paid them for the services. Together, those physicians collected $77 billion in payments through Medicare.
“While we have made significant progress in making the health care system more open and accountable, we look forward to making this important, new information available so that consumers, Medicare and other payers can get the best value for their health care dollar,” Jonathan Blum, principal deputy administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in a blog post.
The decision came after a years-long legal battle over whether the federal government was at liberty to release physician-specific information about payments doctors receive from Medicare.
A Florida court ruled in 1979 that the information could not be disclosed publicly. In response to a lawsuit, a federal judge last year vacated the injunction.
Advocates said the information, which officials said will allow analysts to compare 6,000 types of services and procedures, will help consumers better understand the health system through the lens of Medicare, the nation’s single biggest purchaser of health care. They said it will also help journalists and other organizations root out fraud.
The American Medical Association expressed reservations, arguing that the information could be misleading and that physicians should be permitted to correct inaccuracies in their records.
The “broad” approach to releasing information could “result in unwarranted bias against physicians that can destroy careers,” the association said in a statement.