WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa today asked the head of a federal agency to explain a decision to shut down public access to data on malpractice payouts, hospital discipline and regulatory sanctions against doctors and other health professionals. The public data file did not include doctors’ names, only data that would allow journalists and analysts to track trends in disciplinary actions. The Health Research and Services Administration shut down the public file after a newspaper reporter used the publicly available information to track down the identity of a doctor who had a long record of malpractice cases against him but was never disciplined by the state.
“Shutting down public access to the data bank undermines the critical mission of identifying inefficiencies within our health care system – particularly at the expense of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries,” Grassley wrote in his letter to the agency. “More transparency serves the public interest. Generally speaking, except in cases of national security, the public’s business ought to be public. Providers receive billions of dollars in state and federal tax dollars to serve Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. Accountability requires tracking how the money is spent.”
The text of Grassley’s letter is available here
. More information on how journalists have used the public database to inform the public is available here