June 03, 2013

Grassley, Wyden Say Medicare Claims Data Still Falls Short of Transparency

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., say that despite a recent federal ruling affirming that Medicare data should be available to the public and federal efforts to make some data publicly available, much more still needs to be done to make Medicare claims data fully transparent. 

“Medicare is a $500 billion program with billions of dollars going out in error each year,” Grassley said. “The bad actors get bigger and bolder all the time. They stay out of law enforcement’s reach all too often. It’s time to try new things. More transparency about billing and payments increases public understanding of where tax dollars go and foster accountability. The bad actors might be dissuaded if they knew their actions were subject to the light of day.”

“Medicare claims data transparency seems to be moving in the right direction, but we’re just not there yet,” Wyden said. “Aggregated data and statistical averages can hide differences between providers and settings, and don’t allow Americans to truly compare their health care choices. In order to enjoy the benefits of full transparency, Medicare claims data should be readily available to the public.”

Grassley and Wyden plan to reintroduce the Medicare Data Access for Transparency and Accountability Act (Medicare DATA Act). The bill 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.