By Katie Wike, contributing writer
A recent survey shows providers are divided about whether Medicare payment information should be made available to the public
The American College of Physician Executives conducted a survey of its 11,000 members, asking if Medicare payment information specific to physicians should be made public online. According to Modern Physician (registration required) there was no consensus with 46 percent of respondents saying the information should be kept private, 42 percent saying it should be made public, and 12 percent indicating they were unsure.
Modern Physician further notes, “Since 1979, public release of payment information had been prohibited by a court injunction resulting from a Florida Medical Association lawsuit. But, on March 31, the injunction was vacated by U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard in Jacksonville, FL.”
Opinions varied with some respondents saying taxpayers should have access to any information regarding their money and how it’s spent, to one participant who responded, “The lay public is not equipped to handle this type of information. They do not understand the concept of overhead. They do not know that as an ER doc I collect 30 percent of what I bill. Imagine the frenzy when the media sums up the payments and reports Dr. X's income from Medicare. The reporting of this info will only lead to more doctor-bashing at a time when smart young people are avoiding entry into medical school like the plague.”
Those in favor of keeping the information private argue that its release would be wrongly interpreted by the public and used negatively against physicians, according to Healthcare IT News. Others said taxpayers should not be kept in the dark about how their money is being spent. “We live in an information age,” wrote Daniel McDevitt, MD, FACS, from Atlanta. “We should be able to look up online where our money is going at all times.”
Some respondents said keeping payment information private will make providers appear as if they are hiding something. “It gives an appearance of having something to hide and thus reduces public trust in our profession," said Paul Buehrens, MD, from Seattle. "I just can't understand that attitude."
An article on PhysBizTech quotes Peter Angood, MD, CEO of ACPE who summed up their results by saying, “No matter what your opinion on this subject may be, there’s no doubt the move toward greater transparency in medicine and increased public reporting is here to stay – and we believe it is necessary. Part of our job as physician leaders is to help ensure that when healthcare data is presented to the public, it is accurate, fair, meaningful and useful."