In April, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) dumped a treasure trove of raw data into the public domain: The Medicare Provider Utilization and Payment Data: Physician and Other Supplier Public Use File.
Resisted for years by organized medicine, this release publicizes a dataset of Medicare payments to doctors by name. The data released are for 2012; and CMS plans to release more data in the future.
The New York Times was well prepared for the data dump, and has an easily navigable website where subscribers can enter any doctor’s name and find out how much he earned from Medicare in 2012. Doctors whose Medicare revenue was in the millions found TV cameras at their offices the next morning, and had microphones stuck in front of their faces. The data continue to be analyzed, with interesting results: ProPublica has concluded that 1,800 providers billed the most expensive rate for any given procedure at least 90 percent of the time, although those rates are only for the most complex cases.