Regular readers will know that, last Sunday, I posted a column that pointed to HHS’ schizophrenic behavior when it comes to the release of Medicare physician data. First they fight the consumer advocacy group Checkbook.org’s lawsuit demanding the release of data in 4 states and DC. (The AMA’s Board Chair has admitted that they lobbied HHS to appeal the court’s finding that they should make the data public.) Then, a week ago last Friday, HHS announced a new program that would identify Chartered Value Exchanges (CVEs) in 14 communities – these are coalitions of employers, payers, providers and consumers – and then hand over the same physician data they’ve been fighting the courts to keep secret so these groups can combine them with data available from the private sector and create physician quality/cost report cards.
Apparently never a guy to let the grass grow under his feet, Mr. Leavitt then showed up last Friday in the Memphis Business Journal, calling for a "Travelocity of Health Care." The idea, he explained, is to create "a system that would give a quality grade for doctors and show how much they charge for services."
So I wondered, "Why does the HHS Secretary wander around the country calling for physician data transparency at the same time that he, as head of the nation’s largest health plan, both refuses to release that data to one group and promises to release it selectively to others? Isn’t this saying one thing and doing another.
Mr. Leavitt seems to be an affable, informed, talented guy who, like many of us, maintains a nice and sometimes newsy health care blog. So under his most recent post, called "Dealing with Medicare," I wrote a comment that pointed out the discrepancies I’ve described above and asked him to please explain them.
I was delighted to see that it made it through the moderator and was published on his site. I just checked and so far he hasn’t responded. But hey, Mr. Leavitt IS a genuinely busy person, and I’m not in a hurry.
So here’s a suggestion. Many of you are, like me, health care professionals and equally enthusiastic about the value that transparency can have in re-establishing our health system’s stability and sustainability. Please go over to Mr. Leavitt’s blog and add your own comments to this most recent post. Let him know that there are lots of us who see the "Do as I say, but not as I do" problem, and that we’d like to see him actually align his actions with his words.
Let ask nicely and see if he’ll reward us with an explanation.