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Ban on Public Access to Confidential Medicare Database Lifted by Federal Judge

by Leah Greene, JD, LLM on June 10th, 2013

database imageOn May 31, 2013, a federal judge in Florida vacated the 33-year injunction barring release of Medicare insurance claims regarding individual physicians. In 1979, the American Medical Association (AMA) successfully argued that the Privacy Act of 1974 applied to a physician’s right to protect their Medicare claims from public disclosure. U.S. district Judge Marcia Morales Howard vacated that decision, explaining that over the past 30 years, case law has narrowed the scope of the Privacy Act and no longer supported the broad interpretation advanced by the AMA.

Dow Jones & Co., parent company to the Wall Street Journal, challenged the injunction. It argued that taxpayer money funds Medicare, and taxpayers should have access to individual physicians’ Medicare insurance claims to determine whether any physicians were engaged in fraud or abuse.

Specific physician information regarding Medicare information may not become immediately public. Regardless of whether the AMA appeals the decision, news organizations will have to submit a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain the information, and the Department of Health and Human Services could deny specific requests.

For more information, the full WSJ article is located here.

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From → Health Law