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For Immediate Release
November 9, 2011

Grassley: Restored Public Access to Doctor Database Falls Short

M E M O R A N D U M

To:       Reporters and Editors
Re:       Doctor disciplinary database access
Da:      Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa has been working to restore public access to data on malpractice payouts, hospital discipline and regulatory sanctions against doctors and other health professionals and to hold accountable the federal government official who shut down access to this information.  Today, the responsible agency reopened the public part of the database but imposed restrictions.  Grassley made the following comment on the new version.

“HRSA is overreaching and interpreting the law in a way that restricts the use of the information much more than the law specifies.  Nowhere in the law does it say a reporter can’t use the data in the public use file to combine that with other sources and potentially identify doctors who have been disciplined in their practice of medicine.  This agency needs to remember that half of all health care dollars in the United States comes from taxpayers, so the interpretation of the law ought to be for public benefit.  It’s also hard to see how HRSA has the resources to require the return of supposedly misused data or how that would even work.  It seems the agency’s time would be better used in making sure the database is up to date and as useful as possible.  I’m seeking opinions from legal experts on HRSA’s interpretation of the law.  And I continue to expect a briefing from HRSA on this situation, including participation from the person who pulled the public data file after a single physician complained that a reporter identified him through shoe leather reporting, not the public data file.  One complaint shouldn’t dictate public access to federally collected data for 300 million people.”
   
Details of Grassley’s prior inquiries are available here and here.