This week, ProPublica reporter Charles Ornstein talks with David Goldhill, president and CEO of the game-show television network GSN, whose book "Catastrophic Care: Why Everything We Think We Know about Health Care Is Wrong," was published last year. Spurred by his father's death from a hospital-acquired infection in 2007, his health-care writings have focused on how the dysfunction of the health care system speaks to the ways it's not held accountable like other industries.
Medicare's recent release of data on Part B payments to doctors highlights that gap; as a program, Medicare is hailed as a success because it pays for care at low prices, Goldhill says, but "I think, when you look at the data, you get a much more subtle view, which is low prices, little admin, little oversight encourage a type of medicine that may be excessive, and wasteful. And the prices may be low, but people may be performing too many of them."
Goldhill says the new data help contribute to an understanding of the process that consumers just haven't had before.
Ornstein agrees. "Until this point, the way you saw doctors rated was in these New Jersey Monthly or New York magazine," he says. "If they said you were good, then you were good, and you were the best doctor in town. In that sense, the Medicare data is a big deal."
While the heavy lifting on the data analysis will still be borne by intermediaries -- journalists among them -- this new transparency is good for the patient.
"That general understanding, that skepticism that consumers have in everything else -- just because a guy's willing to sell me a car at a good price doesn't mean this is the car I want to buy at that price, which we believe in everything else in life -- to extent that can come to health care, that is a transformative way of thinking about care," Goldhill says.