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CMS solicits comment on publicizing physician Medicare reimbursements

CMS has issued a request for public comment on how to create “the most appropriate” policies for disclosing individual physician Medicare reimbursement payment data.

Earlier this year, A Florida federal district court lifted an injunction from 1979 that prevented the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (now known as HHS) from publicly revealing Medicare reimbursement payments given to individual physicians. As a result of that ruling, CMS is now seeking public opinion on how individual payment data should be disclosed in the future. The agency wants feedback on three main issues: How to balance physicians’ privacy against public interest in reimbursement data, how disclosing this data can benefit the quality and value of care, and the form in which this data should be released.

Public interest in this information has increased as the size of the Medicare program has grown. Medicare reimbursements have become more standardized, lessening the concern of breaching an individual physician’s privacy if their reimbursement data is publicly disclosed.

Furthermore, the federal budget sequester complicates physician payment data as analysts examine payment trends. Eligible professionals and hospitals were expected to see a 2% decrease in what they receive for participating in Medicare, starting in April. In advance of the original sequester date, the American Medical Association encouraged providers to prepare for reimbursement cuts.

Health IT stakeholders have seen many opportunities to comment on federal policy proposals this year. The ONC asked for public comment on their EHR safety plan at the end of last year. The plan seeks to collect EHR safety adverse event reports and create FDA regulations to enforce EHR safety. The ONC maintains a “Health IT and Patient Safety” resource on their website, which includes responses to their public comment period and other pages that are updated periodically.

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