AAOS supports HHS appeal on release of claims data

By Grant Nyhammer, JD

The American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons, along with 16 other medical societies, has filed a “friend-of-the-court brief” in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) case brought by Consumers’ Checkbook. The case is pending in the federal court of appeals for the District of Columbia.

Checkbook’s FOIA request seeks Medicare claims data that would identify individual physicians and could be combined with the publicly available physician fee schedule to determine physician incomes from Medicare. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) denied the request on grounds that the claims data are protected under “FOIA Exemption 6,” which applies when a disclosure of government-held information would result in “a clearly unwarranted invasion of individual privacy.” In response to the denial, Checkbook sued, and the federal district court ordered HHS to disclose the requested claims data. HHS then filed an appeal.

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