Reflex: December 8, 2011

HHS to release more information about individual doctors, reports John Carryrou. “Under the new rules, the agency is allowing a new category of organizations to obtain the data: community groups comprising doctors, health insurers, businesses, consumers and government that work to improve health care at the local level. These groups, which the agency estimates number about 25 nationwide, will be able to use the data to publish studies, such as report cards on certain procedures, hospitals or doctors. Although they will have to notify the subjects of their reports 60 days in advance, doctors won’t be able to block publication. Patient information will remain confidential.” Austin’s comment: My view is that these are the public’s data since the vast majority of the care they represent were paid with public dollars. The same goes for data held by private insurers offering Medicare Advantage plans. More of that should be made available to researchers. If plans and doctors don’t like it, they should not accept public funds. Aaron’s Comment: I couldn’t agree more. The public has a right to look at how wisely their dollars are being spent. 

North Carolina Medicaid battle escalates, writes Lynn Bonner. There is a budget shortfall of $139 Million in this fiscal year, and the state is struggling to make up the difference. Don’s commentDemocrats (Governor) say that Republicans (who control both Houses of the state legislature) are reneging on a pledge to make up the difference with extra revenue that would allow Medicaid to avoid provider cuts. Republicans say that the problem must be addressed by the Governor managing the budget, while she says that the Legislature controls the purse strings. The services most likely to be affected are specialized services for long term disabled persons. The shortfall is small in relation to the overall cost of the program (~$13 Billion for 2011-12 fiscal year) but of course it is the beginning of an election year in which the Governor is running for re-election, Republicans control both Houses for the first time since 1892, and N.C. is a must win state for President Obama.

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