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Judge decrees Medicare data must be made public

Posting in Healthcare

A federal judge has ordered that a Medicare database must be made public, ending a 33-year-old injunction.

The system in question stores ever Medicare insurance claim ever made. On Friday, Judge Marcia Morales Howard ruled that the U.S. District Court lift the ban, imposed in 1979, in favor of a motion proposed by Dow Jones.

The Wall Street Journal, owned by Dow Jones, found that fraud amounting to the millions as well as the financial abuse of patients by doctors and other Medicare providers has taken place. Dow Jones went to court in 2011 to try and have the injunction lifted, as journalists were not able to name doctors through the anonymized data provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Removing the injunction may lead to scrutiny over how patients are treated -- and what healthcare professionals charge.

The American Medical Association have fought making the confidential data public, arguing that physicians will lose their rights to privacy if the information is released. The AMA may appeal the ruling, President-elect Ardis Dee Hoven saying that the healthcare professional lobby is "considering its options on how best to continue to defend the personal privacy interests of all physicians."

Read More: Reuters

Image credit: Flickr

— By on June 1, 2013, 5:28 AM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure