New legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate would expand availability of Medicare data to industry stakeholders and make access and utilizing the data more user-friendly.

Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and John Thune (R-SD) sponsor S. 1758, “The Quality Data, Quality Healthcare Act,” referred to the Finance Committee and soon available at congress.gov.

“Congress and the Administration have taken initial steps to make Medicare data more widely available,” according to a fact sheet from the senators. “One of the more promising efforts is the Quality Entity (QE) program, which permits organizations to access and analyze Medicare data for select purposes. The QE program has the potential to empower our nation’s health care decision makers to make better choices. However, current law is far too restrictive on which organizations can participate in the QE program, what QEs can do with the Medicare data once they have received it, and the degree to which QEs can support their own data maintenance infrastructures.”

There are two large barriers to better use of Medicare data, according to the senators. Reuse of data is prohibited for purposes beyond creating publicly available performance reports, so giving physicians access to their own performance and peer comparisons is not permitted. Further, organizations receiving data are not allowed to charge subscribers for access to the data, limiting those who can participate in the QE program as well as hampering a QE’s ability to support its own analytics program.

The legislation enables organization receiving Medicare data to redistribute it to authorized subscribers such as insurers, health systems and physicians; and permit the charging of a fee to these subscribers. Nearly 20 organizations representing industry stakeholders and businesses are supporting the bill.

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