The federal government has issued a new policy for Freedom of Information Act requests of physicians’ Medicare payments, CMS announced this week.
Jonathan Blum, principal deputy administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said in a statement that the modifications will improve transparency and accessibility for the public while maintaining the privacy of Medicare beneficiaries. 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.
The policy shift is a victory for journalists, but medical professionals are more wary.
“The disclosure of payment data from government healthcare programs must be balanced against the confidentiality and personal privacy interests of physicians and patients who may be unfairly impacted by disclosures,” American Medical Association President Ardis Dee Hoven said. She added, “AMA strongly urges HHS to ensure that physician payment information is released only for efforts aimed at improving the quality of healthcare services and with appropriate safeguards.”