AMA Fears Privacy Loss as Medicare Moves to Reveal Doc Pay

The American Medical Association is warning that the Obama administration could violate physicians' privacy rights if it poorly implements its new policy for informing the public how much money Medicare pays to individual doctors. But other groups say the administration did not go far enough in making payment data broadly accessible.

The American Medical Association is warning that the Obama administration could violate physicians' privacy rights if it poorly implements its new policy for informing the public how much money Medicare pays to individual doctors. But other groups say the administration did not go far enough in making payment data broadly accessible.

On Tuesday, HHS announced that it would begin responding to Freedom of Information Act requests for physician-payment data. The agency didn't guarantee every request would be filled, but said government officials would begin using a “balancing test” to determine which information should be released.

FOIA's privacy exemption may still shield some information from public view if the damage to physician privacy is judged greater than the public interest in the information. In no case would such disclosures reveal the identities of individual patients, the agency said. “As the outcome of the balancing test will depend on the circumstances, the outcomes of these analyses may vary depending on the facts of each case,” HHS said in the rule. “However, in all cases, we are committed to protecting the privacy of Medicare beneficiaries.”

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Source: Modern Healthcare