June 18, 2013

Grassley, Wyden Introduce Medicare Claims Data Transparency Legislation

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today introduced legislation to make Medicare claims data available to the public.  The legislation is the product of the senators’ combined efforts – each was working on a method of making the data public and combined approaches in this bipartisan legislation.

“Taxpayers have a right to see how their dollars are being spent,” Grassley said.  “There shouldn’t be a special exception for hard-earned dollars that happen to be spent through Medicare.”

“Sunlight is among the strongest disinfectants,” Wyden said. “Shedding that light on Medicare will improve the care provided to seniors, help seniors make medical decisions and assure taxpayers that their money is being spent wisely. There is no reason to hide this information, and making it public is long overdue.”

The Medicare Data Access for Transparency and Accountability Act (Medicare DATA Act) would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to issue regulations to make available a searchable Medicare payment database that the public can access at no cost. The bill also clarifies that data on Medicare payments to physicians and suppliers do not fall under a Freedom of Information Act exemption. The bill is co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.

Grassley had previously introduced legislation requiring the Department of Health and Human Services to make Medicare claims and payment data available to the public in a manner similar to other federal spending disclosed on www.USAspending.gov. Wyden had been developing an approach to make the data public through the federal Freedom of Information Act. The bill combines both approaches to make the information available to the public.

Grassley and Wyden said that despite a recent federal ruling affirming that Medicare data should be available to the public and the federal efforts to make some data publicly available, much more still needs to be done to make Medicare claims data fully transparent.

Grassley and Wyden also said health care fraud remains a pervasive problem in federal health care programs. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reports estimate that fraudulent billings to both public and private health care programs make up between three and ten percent of total health care expenditures.

Grassley, Wyden and Bennet serve together on the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicare. Grassley is a senior member and former chairman and ranking member. 

The text of their legislation introduced today is available here.  Grassley’s statement on the bill introduction is available here. Wyden’s statement on the bill introduction is available here.

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