SIDEBAR: Statement From ASH President Linda J. Burns, MD, on Release of Medicare Physician Payment Data

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Linda J. Burns, MD

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has released a large and complex set of data about the number and type of health-care services that individual physicians and certain other health-care professionals delivered in 2012, and the amount Medicare paid them for those services. The data, which cover $77 billion of Medicare Part B Fee-for-Service program payments to 880,000 providers, are intended to allow the public to identify outliers and patterns in payment.

The American Society of Hematology (ASH), the world’s largest professional society concerned with the causes and treatment of blood disorders, is committed to improving the quality of care delivered to patients with hematologic diseases and eliminating waste and overuse in the field.

Incredibly Complex Data

While ASH supports greater transparency about Medicare physician payment and its potential to enhance the quality of the U.S. health-care system, the Society strongly believes that this incredibly complex data must be released with appropriate disclosures and explanatory statements that will encourage and facilitate value-based consumer decision-making. Specifically, the numbers alone will not explain quality of care or account for specific drivers of cost such as specialty, location, supply costs, and support staff. The release of data without placing these aspects of care and others into context may result in inaccurate and misleading information for consumers.

Greater transparency of Medicare provider payment has the potential to improve the quality of care nationwide for patients with hematologic diseases; however, data must be presented in the proper context to be valuable to the overall improvement of the U.S. health-care system. ■

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