Without fanfare, a rule restoring full research access to Medicare and Medicaid data has gone into effect. The rule had been adopted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency (SAMHSA) in the waning days of the Obama administration, but was placed on hold when President Trump took office. It apparently passed muster with the new administration, and a SAMHSA spokesperson has confirmed that the rule took effect on March 21.
This is good news for the research community, and a welcome end to a two-year battle to restore access to unbiased government data. The rule isn’t perfect: as I’ve discussed before, it appears to leave all-payer claims databases with no mechanism to receive data containing records about substance use disorders. But it’s a big step forward.
For those of you who have received scrubbed data from prior years, it’s not clear yet how quickly those data can be re-released in unscrubbed form. If ResDAC—the contractor that manages the research distribution of CMS data—has the unscrubbed data on hand, the rule now allows their release. If not, ResDAC will have to go back to CMS to secure the complete data sets.