CMS releases Medicare Advantage data for first time
The CMS has followed through on its promise to release Medicare Advantage data to researchers in an effort to help them better understand care trends for seniors.
CMS Administrator Seema Verma said Thursday that this is the first time the agency has released the data to researchers. The agency has been collecting data on patient conditions and the services they receive since 2012, using it to help calculate payments for Medicare Advantage insurers.
"We recognize that the MA data is not perfect, but we have determined that the quality of the available MA data is adequate enough to support research," Verma said at the 2018 Datapalooza conference.
The agency has now released preliminary Medicare Advantage encounter data from 2015. More data is expected to come in from insurers through August, and final data reports will follow that. The CMS will release data on MA enrollees annually going forward, Verma said.
Researchers will have to sign a data use agreement with the Research Data Assistance Center to gain access to the 2015 Advantage data.
The CMS had expected to make Medicare Advantage plan data available last year, but data quality and accuracy concerns postponed the release.
Next year, the CMS also expects to make Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program data available, Verma said. This means researchers will have access to data on another 70 million patients.
"The data has the potential to help produce better, more targeted treatments for these patients, improving their quality of life while at the same time reducing costs," Verma said.
Policy insiders have pushed the CMS to release Medicare Advantage data, noting there has been little public information on the value Medicare Advantage provides to its beneficiaries.
"Taxpayers deserve to know how their money is being spent, considering that Medicare Advantage plans receive substantial payments from the federal government and provide care for a significant and growing proportion of beneficiaries," former CMS Chief Data Officer Niall Brennan and health economist Austin Frakt said in a joint JAMA piece in February.
Medicare Advantage enrollment increased from 13% of the Medicare population, or 5.3 million individuals, in 2004 to almost 33%, or 19 million individuals, in 2017. Government payments to Medicare Advantage plans have increased from $77 billion to more than $200 billion per year over the same period, according to researchers.
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