CMS proposal could have 'catastrophic impact' on Medicare, Medicaid research

CMS is proposing raising prices and tightening access to Medicare and Medicaid claims data, changes academics fear could hinder health policy research, ProPublica reported Feb. 22. 

The proposed changes are designed to heighten security for CMS claims data but would be costlier for researchers, ProPublica reported. Under current rules, costs for claims data start at $20,000, depending on the amount of data requested. This data is stored on university computers and can be accessed by multiple users for a small additional fee. 

The new proposal would up starting costs for data to $35,000 and allow only one researcher access to the requested data, which will be stored on a CMS platform. 

More than 300 researchers have signed a draft letter opposing the change, writing it would have a "catastrophic impact" on health policy research, ProPublica reported. 

Joshua Gottlieb, PhD, a professor at the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago, told ProPublica the proposal would "exponentially" grow the costs of research with claims data and make access to the data difficult for all but the "very best resourced organizations." 

"Expanding user-friendly, secure access to CMS data continues to be a priority for the agency,' Jonathan Blum, the principal deputy administrator and chief operating officer of CMS, told ProPublica. 

Under the proposed changes, researchers would not have to pay for the costs of storing the data, Mr. Blum said. 

The proposed rules are designed to tighten security of claims data as data breaches increase across the healthcare system, CMS said in its proposal. In July, data for more than 600,000 Medicare beneficiaries was compromised as part of the MOVEIt software vulnerability, which affected hospitals and health systems across the country. 

The proposed rule is open for comment until March 29. 

Read more here. 

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