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Monday, April 14, 2014

THREE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE DOC DATA DUMP

The release of physicians’ 2012 Medicare payment data has generated a lot of anger, stress, and confusion in the medical profession. Our phone lines have been jammed with physicians asking, “Why did this happen? Can I correct any inaccuracies? What are we doing about it?” We put out a special issue of TMA’s Action newsletter to address as many concerns as we can, but here some important answers for you. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) had to comply with several federal laws when it gave the public unprecedented access to physician Medicare payments and charges for services and procedures. The CMS online database contains information on more than 880,000 physicians and other health care professionals who collectively received $77 billion in Medicare Part B payments in 2012. Organized medicine won a court victory more than 30 years ago that kept the data private. But a judge reversed it in 2013, leading to last week’s release. CMS has no process for physicians to correct errors they find in the data. The biggest problem, as TMA President Steve Brotherton, MD, pointed out in numerous media interviews, is the presentation of the raw information out of context. The data do not account for physician expenses, such as drug and medical supply acquisition costs, investments in health information technology, and other expenses associated with operating any small business. We are very concerned that this will mislead patients, the general public, and elected officials. TMA is developing some talking points you can use to answer patients’ questions and will share them with you promptly.

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