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Consumers group requests release of Medicare physician claims data

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HHS is currently involved in a fight over the public release of the largest health care database in the U.S, reports iHealthBeat. As blogged recently (HHS appeals ruling requiring disclosure of Medicare physician claims data) the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on October 19th filed notice that it will appeal a Federal court decision ordering the release of a Medicare database with information on 40 million patient cases and 700,000 physicians to Consumers’ Checkbook, a not-for-profit organization in Washington, D.C. The organization has said it plans to publicly post the data on a no-cost Web site.

In March 2006, Consumers’ Checkbook filed a Freedom of Information Act with the federal government to obtain 2004 Medicare claims data on physicians in Washington, D.C.; Virginia; Washington state; and Illinois. HHS denied the request because of concerns about physician privacy, but in August, U.S. District Court judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington, D.C., ruled that the data must be handed over because they could serve “a significant public benefit.” Consumers’ Checkbook also has a pending FOIA request to obtain Medicare data from all 50 states and the group “expects to be successful,” according to a Consumer Checkbook press release.

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