FLORIDA MEDICAL ASS'N v. DEPT. OF HEALTH, ED., ETC.
479 F.Supp. 1291 (1979)
FLORIDA MEDICAL ASSOCIATION, INC., a Florida Corporation, on behalf of its members, Louis C. Murray, M.D., Jack McCris, M.D., Jere Annis, M.D., O. William Davenport, M.D., Robert E. Windom, M.D., and Charles H. Berchert, M.D., on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
American Medical Association, on behalf of its members, and Robert B. Hunter, M.D., Frank J. Jirka, Jr., M.D., Lowell H. Steen, M.D., Harold Gurgone, Walter E. Schrange, Plaintiffs (Intervenors),
Broward County Medical Society, Amicus Curiae,
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, EDUCATION & WELFARE, Patricia R. Harris, Secretary of Health, Education & Welfare, Blue Shield of Florida, Inc., a Florida Corporation, and Group Health, Inc., a Florida Corporation, Defendants.
United States District Court, M. D. Florida, Jacksonville Division.
October 22, 1979.
William H. Adams, III, Peter L. Dearing, Stephen D. Lobrano, Jacksonville, Fla., for Florida Medical Assoc.
Newton N. Minow, Jack R. Bierig, Bernard D. Hirsh, B. J. Anderson, Chicago, Ill., for American Medical Assoc.
William DeF. Thompson, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for amicus curiae.
John Power, Sr., Vice President Group Health, Inc., Coral Gables, Fla., for Group Health, Inc.
John Slye, Jacksonville, Fla., for Blue Shield of Florida.
Steve J. Cohen, Miami, Fla., for Broward County Medical Society.
Ernst D. Mueller, Asst. U. S. Atty., Jacksonville, Fla., for HEW.
Barbara Allen Babcock, Leonard Schaitman, Linda Cole, Terrence Jackson, Dept. of Justice, Washington, D. C., Henry R. Goldberg, Vicki Schulkin, Dept. of Health, Ed. & Welfare, Washington, D. C., for defendants.
CHARLES R. SCOTT, Senior District Judge.
This case presents the question whether the Secretary (`the Secretary') of the United States Department of Health, Education & Welfare (`HEW') may disclose information concerning the annual amounts of reimbursements paid to Medicare providers in a way that would individually identify at least some of those providers. This question Parties and Status of the Case
carries with it a clash of two basic rights: (1) the right of citizens to have free access to knowledge about the operations of their government, and (2) their right to be free from unwarranted intrusions by the government into their personal lives and private affairs.
Plaintiff, Florida Medical Association (`FMA') is a voluntary, nonprofit professional association incorporated in the State of Florida. FMA's members are physicians licensed to practice medicine in Florida. FMA has more than 14,000 members who represent approximately 97% of practicing, licensed physicians in the State of Florida. The individual plaintiffs, Louis C. Murray, M.D., Jack McCris, M. D., Jere Annis, M. D., O. William Davenport, M. D., Robert E. Windom, M. D., and Charles E. Berchert, M. D., are physicians residing in the State of Florida and licensed to practice medicine in Florida. Defendant HEW, is an agency of the Executive Branch of the United States government. Defendant, Patricia R. Harris, is the current Secretary of HEW, and was automatically substituted pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 25(d)(1) for Joseph A. Califano, Jr., the former Secretary of HEW. Defendants, Blue Shield of Florida, Inc., (`Blue Shield') and Group Health, Inc., (`Group Health') are Florida corporations licensed to do business in Florida as health insurers. Blue Shield has its principal place of business in Jacksonville, Florida. Broward County Medical Society (`BCMS') is a professional association of physicians practicing in Broward County, Florida, and has been permitted to appear as Amicus Curiae on behalf of plaintiffs in this case.
On April 28, 1978, a temporary restraining order was issued, which was extended on May 8, 1978. By agreement of the parties, the temporary restraining order remained in effect until the Court's ruling in this case or June 6, 1978, whichever occurred first. Plaintiffs' preliminary injunction motion was referred to, and heard by, the Magistrate who issued findings and recommendation on May 8, 1978. The parties filed written objections to those findings and recommendation, and the Court heard arguments concerning those objections on May 16, 1978. Additionally, the defendants and plaintiffs have filed cross-motions for summary judgment which are before the Court. Finally, the parties stipulated that the Court should consolidate its ruling on the merits in this case with its consideration of plaintiffs' preliminary injunction motion, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 65(a)(2). That stipulation provided that the Court, in ruling on the merits in this case, may consider all the evidence admitted at the hearing on plaintiffs' preliminary injunction motion before the Magistrate, as well as all of the pleadings and other documents in the record in this case.
Meanwhile, on June 12, 1978, the American Medical Association (`AMA'), on behalf of its members, and three individual physicians, as well as two individual patients, were all allowed to intervene as plaintiffs in this case against HEW and the Secretary. The AMA and the individual plaintiffs had ten days earlier commenced an action virtually identical to this one in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. A temporary restraining order against the Secretary had been issued on June 5, 1978, by the Northern District of Illinois, and extended on June 12, on the condition that the AMA and the individual plaintiffs "explore appearing in this case." The AMA is a national, voluntary professional association whose membership exceeds 200,000 licensed physicians in all 50 states, four territories, and the District of Columbia.