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Last week's massive release of Medicare data reveals more than which doctors collect the most government money. It also shows that the American Medical Association helps set prices for doctors' services — in a system protected by federal law. Also, the standoff in eastern Ukraine, and the latest diplomatic flap with Iran.

Banner image: Les Black

Standoff in Eastern Ukraine 7 MIN, 36 SEC

The interim President of Ukraine says he's not opposed to a nationwide referendum on granting regions greater autonomy.  This, after he failed to make good on yesterday's threat of military action to remove pro-Russian protesters who've seized more and more government buildings. Mark Rachkevych is an editor of the Kyiv Post. He's just returned to Ukraine's capital from the eastern city of Donetsk.

Mark Rachkevych, Kyiv Post (@KyivPost)

Medicare Costs and Your Doctor Bills 35 MIN, 56 SEC

Last year, Dow Jones persuaded a court to lift an injunction against the release of Medicare data, an injunction first granted to the American Medical Association in 1979.  Last week, as a result, there was a massive "data dump" that's being called a watershed moment in establishing greater transparency. That data data shows that some doctors get millions of taxpayer dollars more than others for similar treatments. A few were already under indictment for fraud, but others have explanations. We talk about that with the president of the American Medical Association. The AMA helps set prices for Medicare, which then become standard for all procedures. Does the system encourage doctors to enrich themselves? What have the data revealed about pharmaceutical companies? Can they inflate prices under the cover of law?

Christopher Weaver, Wall Street Journal (@cdweaver)
Ardis Dee Hoven, American Medical Association (@AmerMedicalAssn)
Peter Whoriskey, Washington Post (@PeterWhoriskey)
Greg Rosenthal, Physicians for Clinical Responsibility (@jgrosenthal)
Herbert Rappaport, retired oncologist (@DrRappaport)

AMA on what you won't see in the raw Medicare claims data
Weaver on doctor-pay trove showing limits of Medicare billing data
Weaver on small slice of doctors accounting for big chunk of Medicare costs
Whoriskey on the cost of drugs used by Medicare doctors varying by region

US Blocks Iran's UN Ambassador Nominee 6 MIN, 56 SEC

In 1979, young Iranians seized the US embassy in Tehran and held diplomats hostage until Ronald Reagan was elected President to replace Jimmie Carter. Hamid Aboutalebi was allegedly involved. Now, he's Iran's nominee as Ambassador to the United Nations, but the US has refused to grant him a visa. Aboutalebi says he was only a translator for the hostage takers.  In the meantime, he's become a senior diplomat, whose posts have included Ambassador to the EU. Both houses of Congress have voted to bar his entry, and the White House says he won't be granted a visa. Reza Marashi is research director for the National Iranian American Council, formerly with the State Department's Office of Iranian Affairs.

Reza Marashi, National Iranian American Council (@rezmarashi)

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