CMS Releases Medicare Hospital Payment Data, New Online Tools

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On Monday, CMS released Medicare hospital pricing data for 2012 in an effort to increase transparency, lower costs and improve the quality of care, The Hill reports (Al-Faruque, The Hill, 6/2).

About the Data

The information, which was revealed at the annual Health Datapalooza conference in Washington, D.C.,  is the agency's first annual update to Medicare hospital charge, which compare the average amount a hospital charges for services provided with a similar inpatient stay or outpatient visit (HHS release, 6/2).

The new data include payment information for more than 3,000 hospitals across the U.S., including:

  • The 100 most common Medicare procedures; and
  • The 30 most common outpatient procedures.

Data Findings

CMS found wide discrepancies in how much certain services cost in different areas of the country, according to The Hill.

For example, a major joint replacement surgery in Baltimore cost Medicare $15,901 in 2012, compared with $239,138 in Los Angeles during the same year.

However, the report identified similar discrepancies within the same city. For example, a Newark, N.J.-based hospital charged $32,750 to treat heart failures in 2012, compared with $142,000 charged by another hospital in the city for the same procedure.

HHS Chief Technology Officer Bryan Sivak said, "These public data resources provide a better understanding of Medicare utilization, the burden of chronic conditions among beneficiaries and the implications for our health care system and how this varies by where beneficiaries are located." He added that the data can be used by researchers "to improve care coordination and health outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries nationwide" (The Hill, 6/2).

New Tools

In addition to the new pricing data, CMS announced several new interactive online tools and dashboards that aim to help users process and understand the pricing data.

The tools and dashboards are now available on CMS' website and include:

  • Chronic Conditions Warehouse and Dashboard, which contains new and updated information about chronic conditions among Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries;
  • Geographic Variation Dashboard, which presents Medicare fee-for-service per-capita spending at the state and national levels in interactive formats;
  • Research Cohort Estimation Tool, which aims to help researchers and other industry stakeholders predict the number of Medicare beneficiaries with specific demographic profiles or medical conditions (HHS release, 6/2); and
  • OPENFDA, a new initiative aimed at increasing Web developers, researchers and consumers' access to public health datasets collected by the agency (Goth, Health Data Management, 6/2).

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