U.S. Senators Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) recently pitched in Politico legislation they introduced in June to open Medicare’s claims database to the general public.

Free access is available to bureaucrats and some academic researchers, the senators argued, despite a federal court ruling to expand access. Making claims and payment data easily available would enable consumers to find out how often a particular physician orders tests and other treatments and their costs, as well as price variations between local hospitals and practices.

The legislation, S. 1180, “The Medicare Data Access for Transparency and Accountability Act,” is in the Senate Finance Committee. The bill would require the Department of Health and Human Services to promulgate by the end of 2014 rules to expand data availability.

The bill calls for a free searchable database, starting with data from fiscal 2014 that includes amounts paid to providers and suppliers and the items and services for which payment was made, search capability for types of items or services, and identification of each provider or supplier by a unique identifier.

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