In a Jan. 14, 2014 rule the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it will begin responding to requests made under the Freedom of Information Act for physician payment information. Decisions regarding whether or not to disclose information will be made on a case-by-case basis, allowing CMS to “weigh the balance between the privacy interest of individual physicians and the public interest in disclosure of such information.” The new policy stems from a May 2013 ruling by a district judge in Florida who dissolved a 1979 federal injunction barring the release of Medicare payment data identifying physicians. The federal injunction was dissolved on the grounds that privacy concerns no longer outweighed public interest.
CMS principle deputy administrator Jonathan Blum described the decision making process behind the development of the new rule in a CMS blog post. CMS reviewed more than 130 comments on the issue as a part of its rulemaking process. Blum explained who could benefit from the data release and how the data could be used: “providers to collaborate on improved care management and delivery of healthcare at lower costs; consumers to gain broader, more reliable measures of provider quality and performance which drives innovation and competition while informing consumer choice; and journalists and others to identify waste, fraud and abuse as well as unsafe practices.”