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Federal Judge Lifts 33-Year Ban on CMS Disclosure of Physician Reimbursement Data

A long-standing Federal court injunction that prohibited CMS from releasing physician reimbursement data has been dismissed.  On May 31, 2013, a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida issued an order vacating the injunction, declaring its continued enforcement “inequitable and detrimental to the public interest.”  The injunction stemmed from a 1979 case, Florida Medical Association Inc. v. Dept of Health Education & Welfare, involving the release of Medicare claims data that could be used to identify annual Medicare payments to individual physicians.  With the injunction lifted, CMS may now grant requesting entities access to physician-specific claims data under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) provided the release otherwise meets the requirements of FOIA and other related federal laws and regulations.  Although the long-term impact of the order remains uncertain, this is a measurable shift in federal health care program transparency.  An article providing background information on the injunction and analysis of the order and its impact is forthcoming.  

A PDF of the May 31 Order is available for download here