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What’s HHS’ Real Position on Releasing Medicare Physician Data?

Posted on | February 8, 2008 | Comments Off on What’s HHS’ Real Position on Releasing Medicare Physician Data?

A New HHS Program Gives “Cognitive Dissonance” New Meaning

Here’s a really classical example of a federal regulatory agency holding fast to two opposing ideas at the same time. I wonder what it means?

Last week HHS posted an interesting notice announcing a new program that recognizes 14 (presumably) forward-thinking health care coalitions of providers, employers, insurers and consumers, which it refers to Chartered Value Exchanges, or CVEs. (Who comes up with these names?!)

HHS promises that, by summer of 2008, it will provide "access to information from Medicare that gauges the quality of care physicians provide to patients." This "physician-group level performance information…can be combined with similar private-sector data to produce a comprehensive consumer guide on the quality of care available" in each community. Cool! Sign me up!

Only one problem. This program seemingly contradicts HHS’s position, taken at the urging of the AMA, in its appeal of a lawsuit finding that HHS should release data on Medicare physician performance to the consumer advocacy group Consumers’ Checkbook. In that case, HHS used the pretzel logic that, even though they are Medicare vendors being paid with public dollars and that the same principle applies to no other health care group, doctors have a right to privacy.

So here’s a question. Anybody got a clue what’s going on here? What’s HHS goal? Why are they fighting so hard to hold back the data on one front and so willing to make it publicly available on another?

(Brian Klepper is a health care analyst and commentator based in Atlantic Beach, FL. He can be reached at [email protected]. Opinions expressed by Health Commentary guest bloggers do not necessarily represent the views of Health Commentary.)


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