group of doctors talking

SUMMARY: A big release of data from Medicare, on what doctors got paid what for doing what, is coming in hours. There’s a lot of debate about it — the American Medical Association resisted, and then stopped resisting — and the mystery about what’s in the data has been building for months. For a sneak peek, read on….



Charles Ornstein, the amazing health-care reporter at ProPublica, had this to say in his post:

“The federal government is expected Wednesday to release data on the services provided by – and money paid to – 880,000 health professionals who take care of patients in the Medicare Part B program. For 35 years, this data has been off limits to the public – and now it will be publicly available for use by journalists, researchers and others.

“While the data offers a huge array of stories, which could take weeks or months to report out, it also has some pitfalls. Here are six things to be aware of before you dig in …. ” via ProPublica, Full post: Caution in order when tackling newly released Medicare data

And here’s a snippet of my friend Fred Trotter’s take on the release.

Both of these pieces about the topic are great, full of subtlety and wisdom that is born of Fred’s DocGraph project analyzing Medicare payment data, with all its strengths and weaknesses, and Charlie’s deep expertise in covering health care for ProPublica and others.

This is Fred’s kicker.

“HHS is taking a huge risk in releasing this data in this manner. I don’t think that the AMA, as a whole, is against data transparency, but there are certainly detractors in that organization. If this data comes out and people publish a lot of half-baked stories or blog posts based on this data, it is going to give the “data hoarders” within the AMA and other organizations ammunition to prevent further data releases. The downside of transparency is that it creates the opportunity for careless slander. Let’s not do that. If you need help to write a good story about this, get in touch with me, and I will help. I would be happy to provide quotes, but also to help “sanity-check” conclusions. Believe me, there will be plenty of good-old-fashioned dirt that gets revealed by this data release, there is no reason to manufacture drama prematurely.”

Full post: Don’t jump to conclusions with Doctor data.

What we think: Transparency is good.

If this data is messy, or if it raises questions about payment patterns, then more data should be released.

If record-keeping is bad, making data messy, then it should be made better.

People have a right to know how their tax dollars are being spent. Medicare is a huge driver of federal spending, which affects every one of us directly or indirectly.

It’s time for transparency in the health-care marketplace.

Jeanne Pinder

Jeanne Pinder  is the founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts. She worked at The New York Times for almost 25 years as a reporter, editor and human resources executive, then volunteered for a buyout and founded...