The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will begin releasing information on amounts paid to individual physicians under the Medicare program, but only on a case-by-case basis.

Previous CMS policy stated that the public interest in disclosure of payments to individual physicians was not sufficient to compel disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, according to a notice available here. That policy was based on courts finding a compelling privacy interest for the physicians in two cases from 1979 and 1980.

A district court in May 2013 vacated a permanent injunction under one of the cases after determining that a broad injunction was no longer authorized under the Privacy Act. The district judge based the ruling on a 1982 U.S. Appeals Court decision in another privacy matter. Consequently, CMS in August 2013 solicited public comment on its policy of disclosing payment information.

Now, “CMS will make case-by-case determinations as to whether Exemption 6 of the Freedom of Information Act applies to a given request for information pertaining to the amounts that were paid to individual physicians under Medicare,” according to the notice. The exemption requires CMS to weight the balance between the privacy interest of a physician and the public interest of disclosure. CMS says it will protect the privacy of Medicare beneficiaries in all cases.

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