Journal seeks to end ban on Medicare data

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The publisher of The Wall Street Journal went to court Tuesday seeking to overturn a 31-year ban on the release of records about how much Medicare money individual doctors receive.

Dow Jones & Company Inc. filed papers in federal court in Orlando in an effort to end a prohibition that was implemented in 1979 following a successful lawsuit in Florida by the American Medical Association.

Dow Jones called the ban outdated and said it had limited the data reporters for The Wall Street Journal were able to obtain last year for a series of stories that examined abuses in the Medicare system.

"There is no legally supportable justification for maintaining a sweeping and obsolete injunction that for over thirty years has prevented the American public from knowing the true extent of Medicare waste, abuse and fraud," Dow Jones said in its filing.

The president of the American Medical Association said that members of the public could draw misleading conclusions from the data if it is released, given its complexity and "significant limitations."

"Physicians who provide care to Medicare patients are already subject to widespread governmental oversight," Dr. Cecil Wilson of Winter Park, Fla., said in a statement. "These federal agencies and contractors have access to the full range of Medicare data and are aggressively ferreting out improper claims."

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