Phony IP claims advanced to block Medicare pricing transparency

by Paul Alan Levy

A couple of months ago, South Carolina lawyer B. Craig Killough advanced vague intellectual property claims in objecting to a blog post by a California health policy expert who commented on some aspects of the pricing policies being followed by Palmetto GBA, one of the companies retained by the federal Centers on Medicare and Medicaid Services to process Medicare claims by health providers in several states. Responding to Killough’s demand letter, blog author Bruce Quinn initially took down both the specific billing codes, replacing them with hyperlinks to the demand letter, and also removed his hyperlink to the underlying spreadsheet showing the full range of billing codes and reimbursement prices, which had been obtained from CMS and from Palmetto itself under the Freedom of Information Act. Feeling its oats, Palmetto appears to have been encouraged by Quinn’s apparent retreat to reach out to CMS to get it to send Quinn a letter seeking to  "claw back" the FOIA disclosures.

But Killough ducked both emails and phone calls seeking to elicit an explanation for his intellectual property claims. Unlike Killough, a FOIA staffer at CMS was at least courteous enough to respond to inquiry, but was unwilling to be specific about the basis for seeking return of the FOIA disclosures. Consequently, we have now pushed back against both demands, first explaining to Killough why its Palmetto''s claims are nonsensical, and then telling CMS that Quinn is not willing to give back the document that was released to him under the FOIA.

Quinn observed that Killough’s demand letter and the subsequent coverage of the demand (here, subject to paywall, and here) had brought his blog post far more page views than it had originally received. Once Quinn restores the link to the spreadsheet itself, Palmetto’s botched demand letter is likely to prove far more counterproductive to its claimed interests.

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