Practice Economics

Physicians could get squeezed by Open Payments delay


Website delays may curtail physicians’ ability to review data on payments they received from drug and device makers before the federal government publishes it Sept. 30.

"There is a compelling need to ensure that physicians have an adequate amount of time to register with the Open Payments Program system, to review their consolidated reports, to dispute errors, and obtain corrections," Dr. James L. Madara, AMA executive vice president, wrote in a letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

CMS got a late start in launching its online system for data collection, created as part of the Affordable Care Act.

The Open Payments Program – colloquially known as the Sunshine Act program – requires manufacturers of drugs, devices, biologicals, and medical supplies to report the honoraria, fees, and other payments that they make to doctors. The information will be published in a searchable database.

Dr. James Madara

Manufacturers began tabulating data in August 2013 and were supposed to start reporting to the CMS through a website on Jan. 1. The program called for doctors to be able to register for the website at the same time so they could begin reviewing data.

CMS launched the website 6 weeks late on Feb. 18 and made it available only to manufacturers and group purchasing organizations. The first registration and reporting phase ended March 31. The agency has not begun the second phase yet.

Registration and review for physicians and teaching hospitals will begin no later than Aug. 1, according to CMS.

The AMA is urging the CMS "to adjust the public reporting date until the agency can ensure that physician due process rights are protected, and the agency has in place a process and system that will produce accurate reports."

The AMA said that it is concerned that the agency might not be able to ensure timeliness or accuracy because "the CMS is building a new system that reportedly has not been beta tested."

The ACA requires the CMS to give physicians 60 days to review data and settle any disputes, according to Neil Kirschner, senior associate for health policy and regulatory affairs at the American College of Physicians. He said that the ACP will continue to monitor the CMS’s progress and advocate for a minimum of a 60-day review period.

Officials at the American College of Cardiology also are wary of the situation.

"Given the difficulties that physicians have had in obtaining access to their Physician Quality Reporting System reports and other similar documents that require authentication of identity, the College is concerned that there will not be sufficient time to both communicate to them the need to register and for the registration and authentication to occur before the reports are available," said Lisa Goldstein, ACC associate director of regulatory affairs.

"Instead, many will likely be scrambling to register and authenticate their identities during the limited review period before the information is made public, reducing the amount of time the physicians have to review their reports and file disputes as appropriate," she said.

Dr. Brett Coldiron, president of the American Academy of Dermatology, said that the academy "wants to ensure that the information that is shared through Open Payments is as accurate as possible, and that implementation of the program is seamless and does not create undue administrative burdens on physicians."

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