In another salvo in the battle between the use of claims data vs. clinical data for quality reporting, the American Osteopathic Association has asked HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt to appeal a recent decision by a federal court judge that would open Medicare claims information to data-miners.
In a three-page letter, physician Peter Ajluni, president of the 61,000 member association, expressed "deep concern" over the ruling in the case of Consumers' Checkbook v. HHS, in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
On Aug. 22, Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered HHS to hand over Medicare claims records requested by the not-for-profit consumer organization.
In 2006, Consumers Checkbook, which produces an online "Guide to Top Doctors," had requested under the Freedom of Information Act that CMS provide it a subset of all physician Medicare claims for 2004 for Washington, D.C.; as well as the states of Illinois, Maryland, Virginia and Washington. The CMS refused and in December, Consumers' Checkbook sued HHS. The government has until Oct. 4 to appeal and, according to Ajluni, it should do so to protect consumers.
The Ajluni letter said the court order would "allow for the public release of Federal healthcare claims
data and, potentially, private claims data. While the goal of public release of claims data may be
to improve transparency and quality in the healthcare delivery system, the use of this
administrative level data, which cannot accurately be risk-adjusted, is too limited to provide
reliable information on quality of service, patient health status and outcomes."