The Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) announced today that they will release a huge database containing information on procedures provided by by doctors for Medicare patients and the payments they received. The release could be as soon as next week. From the CMS blog

We plan to provide the public unprecedented access to information about the number and type of health care services that individual physicians and certain other health care professionals delivered in 2012, and the amount Medicare paid them for those services, beginning not earlier than April 9. Providing consumers with this information will help them make more informed choices about the care they receive.

The new data provides a better picture of how physicians practice in the Medicare program, and the payments they receive. This data contains information on more than 880,000 health care professionals in all 50 states who collectively received $77 billion in payments in 2012 for services delivered to beneficiaries under the Medicare Part B Fee-For-Service program. With this data, it will be possible to conduct a wide range of analyses that compare 6,000 different types of services and procedures provided, as well as payments received by individual health care providers.

Sounds exciting, right?! This is in fact big news for transparency in medical reimbursements, in ways that could be very helpful for patients making choices about providers. A previous CMS data release, on Medicare payments made to hospitals, showed massive disparities in hospital charges, including in Arkansas.  

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This line from CMS is important enough to repeat: “Providing consumers with this information will help them make more informed choices about the care they receive.” Indeed. Health-care consumers can’t be consumers at all if pricing is shrouded in mystery. More from CMS: 

Data like these can shine a light on how care is delivered in the Medicare program. They can help consumers compare the services provided and payments received by individual health care providers. Businesses and consumers alike can use these data to drive decision-making and reward quality, cost-effective care. We look forward to describing how this information can inform consumers and health care providers when we release this data in the near future.