On January 30th, a 3-judge DC appeals court overturned a lower court decision that would have forced open public release of Medicare physician data. Writing in most in a split 2-1 wisdom, Circuit Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson announced that, “The requested data will not provide any (freedom-of-information-related) public interest in disclosure.
In 2007, Checkbook sued HHS under the Freedom for Information Act (FOIA) to release the Medicare physician data from four expresses and DC, and guaranteed to make the data publicly available so consumers could understand doctors’ relative prices and performance. The Bush Administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in league with the AMA throughout this full case, argued that doctors have the right to privacy that precludes the public’s right to know how authorities works.
When the lower court found with Checkbook, the buyer group promptly sued for the info in the rest of the areas and territories, and HHS filed an charm that was joined by the AMA. Amicus briefs helping Checkbook’s position were submitted by several prominent health care groupings: AARP, the guts for Medicare Advocacy, Consumers Union (publisher of Consumer Reports), the National Business Group on Health, the Pacific Business Group on Health, and Judicial Watch.
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This court’s decision creates a fascinating group of dynamics. The statement continued, “The court found that doctors have a substantial right to personal privacy, and there is no public interest in the disclosure wanted by Consumers’ Checkbook. However the statement is attributed to a specific AMA Board member, Jeremy Lazarus MD. I am not a lawyer, so might not appreciate the full power of the ruling, but several observations one thinks of. First, the decision appears to be a very narrowly drawn response to the question of whether the release of physician-specific Medicare payment data fulfills the typical of the Freedom of Information Act.
If this is the case, then it generally does not seem to be always a very definitive or strong hurdle to future attempts to make Medicare doctor data publicly available. So the remarkable thing would be that the judgment appears to have been made beyond your framework of the data’s potential impact on healthcare cost and quality.
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