Why The Medicare Doc Pay Reveal is Good News
April 10, 2014
Wellness data is very “in” these days. Wearable technology such as FitBit allows individuals to track their fitness activity and apps let people track calorie consumption or weight loss.
The recent data released on Medicare doctor pay has unleashed a firestorm of controversy because of the amount of money some doctors made from treating Medicare patients — as much as $21 million in the case of one opthamologist. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released the data this week, for the first time in 35 years. The data had been held subject to the resolution of an injunction, sought by the American Medical Association, which had been in place since 1979.
But it’s not all bad news. Think of this as another kind of wellness data. Essentially it is wellness data, a level up — data on the “wellness” not of the individual, but of the Medicare system as a whole.
The specific dollar amounts will be repeated and repeated as evidence of excess and even criminal activity on the part of some doctors. But the longer term takeaway is that data facilitates transparency. [To see exactly what reimbursements were state by state, check out this interactive map from USA Today.]
“Taxpayers have the right to understand what is being paid for and how it is being paid for,” said Jonathan Blum, principal deputy administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicare Services.
In addition to it being a taxpayers’ “right,” having this full data transparency allows Medicare administrators to identify areas of excess and inefficiency and consumers to compare prices. It also allows all of us to consider broader questions about health care in the United States, for example, why some surgeries are performed more or cost more in one geographic area as opposed to another.
Shining the light on this data opens up the Medicare program to be improved, streamlined and hopefully, made sustainable for generations to come.