Physicians

Sunday Morning Post, by Brian Klepper

Here’s a classical example of a federal regulatory agency holding fast to two opposing ideas at the same time. I wonder what it means?

Last week the Department of Health and Human Services posted an interesting notice announcing a new program that recognizes 14 (presumably) forward-thinking health care coalitions of providers, employers, insurers and consumers, which it refers to Chartered Value Exchanges, or CVEs. (Who comes up with these names?!)  HHS promises that, by summer of 2008, it will provide "access
to information from Medicare that gauges the quality of care
physicians provide to patients." This "physician-group level
performance information…can be combined with similar private-sector
data to produce a comprehensive consumer guide on the quality of care
available" in each community. Cool! Sign me up!

Only one problem. This program seemingly contradicts HHS’s position, taken at the urging of the AMA,
in its appeal of a lawsuit finding that HHS should release data on
Medicare physician performance to the consumer advocacy group Consumers’ Checkbook.
In that case, HHS used the pretzel logic that, even though they are
Medicare vendors being paid with public dollars and that the same principle
applies to no other health care group, doctors have a right to privacy.

So here’s a question. Anybody got a clue what’s going on here? What’s HHS goal? Why are they fighting so hard to hold back the data on one front and so willing to make it publicly available on another?

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I saw the same thing and was pretty baffled by it too. My guess is that CMS continues to be in favor of transparency but wants to control the speed/pace at which this information is put out there. Makes sense if you think about it. Doesn’t really matter in the long-term though. CMS commissioner has been a lame-duck position ever since McClellan resigned in 2006. Weems will likely be the commissioner until the next president is confirmed unless he resigns too to take a more lucrative job in the private sector (which a number of top-level people in the DHHS… Read more »