Judge Ends 33-Year Ban on Media Access to Medicare Database

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

A federal judge has sided with Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Wall Street Journal, which sued the government two years ago to force the release of data about Medicare doctors.


The ruling by U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard vacated a 33-year-old injunction that had prohibited the federal government from releasing Medicare information on individual doctors to the public.


In 2011, The Wall Street Journal published multiple stories showing how the Medicare information could be used to expose fraud and abuse in the billion-dollar healthcare program for the elderly and disabled. It then filed a civil complaint to get the injunction, in place since 1979, lifted.


In the original case, a federal court in Florida agreed with the American Medical Association (AMA), which argued that doctors’ right to privacy trumped the public’s interest in knowing how tax dollars were spent.


The AMA still opposes the release of such information and may appeal the ruling to a higher court.


The Wall Street Journal and other news organizations seeking doctor-specific information will still have to file Freedom of Information Act requests, which will then be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by the Department of Health and Human Services.


In 2012, the Obama administration, as part of the Affordable Care Act made some doctor-specific Medicare data available to local community groups, but not to news organizations.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Judge Ends 33-Year Injunction That Shielded Medicare Data on Doctors (by John Carreyrou, Wall Street Journal)


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