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What Medicare's Pricing Data Release Means to You

April 10, 2014

Yesterday was a big day for healthcare and data worlds alike. On Wednesday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a huge amount of information about how much individual doctors billed Medicare as well as how much those doctors were actually paid by the program. All in all, the 2012 data involves around $77 billion that was paid to 880,000 doctors for Medicare Part B services (think office visits and test). 

So what does this mean for you – a consumer-patient?

First and foremost, it means the healthcare transparency movement has momentum! Many organizations and people worked hard for the public release of this data and the government finally listened. There is power in numbers remember? The data in its unformatted, or raw, form can be hard for typical people looking for answers to understand. However, many online publications and organizations have and will continue to look through it to see how and what information can be pulled and will be useful to the public. While there can be limitations to the data and it doesn’t always tell the whole story, it is a great start to making the whole healthcare system a little more transparent.

The contents of these files can help the public see what doctors are charging for specific services and what Medicare is actually paying out. But more importantly, it can shed light on how many services a specific doctor performs signaling treatment decisions and patterns. Additionally, it has brought the transparency conversation to the forefront of the healthcare discussion. The more talk and chatter there is about this issue, the more likely others will take notice and follow suit!

HCI3 Executive Director, Francois de Brantes, says it best as quoted in a New York Times article, “Any time Medicare releases a lot of data, it changes the conversation in America about transparency, about cost and quality.”

And it seems this big data release seems to be doing just that.

If you are curious about your doctor’s payments, this New York Times interactive form allows you to see how much your doctor received in Medicare payments. If you are interested/brave enough to look into the data yourself, the raw data can be found on the Medicare website.

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