Sunshine Act: Tracking of gifts, payments starts in August



CHICAGO – Worried that erroneous data about your relationships with industry will be publicly reported under the federal Sunshine Act? Officials from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services spoke at the annual meeting of the American Medical Association House of Delegates June 17 in an effort to allay those fears.

The Sunshine Act, which requires manufacturers to report to the CMS almost all payments and gifts made to physicians and teaching hospitals, became law as part of the Affordable Care Act. Final rules for the ACA’s Sunshine Act provisions, which the government is now calling the Open Payments Program, were issued in February.

Once data have been collected and processed, physicians will have 45 days to dispute and correct manufacturers’ reports, the CMS officials said.

Alicia Ault/IMNG Medical Media

AMA House of Delegates

After that, the data will be made public. The 5 months of data that will be collected for this year – starting Aug. 1 – will be released publicly in September 2014. Going forward, the previous year’s data will be reported each June.

Although physicians will not report their data directly to the CMS, they will be expected to take an active role in ensuring the program is successful, according to Anita Griner, deputy director of the data sharing and partnership group at the agency’s Center for Program Integrity.

Manufacturers will start compiling data on Aug. 1 on payments to physicians for consulting, honoraria, grants, gifts, meals, travel, royalties, and speaking at events, including continuing education programs. In January, the CMS will encourage physicians and teaching hospitals to register with the agency, most likely through a web portal. Once registered, doctors will be notified when data about them has been submitted, Ms. Griner explained.

Providers will have 45 days to dispute the data. If they see something false, misleading, or wrong, they must indicate their dispute to the agency and then work out the dispute with the manufacturer. The data will be flagged as "disputed" on the public website.

If physicians don’t bring a dispute to the agency’s attention within the 45-day window, it could take months for the dispute to be noted on the website, Ms. Griner said, and if the dispute is not settled within a year, the manufacturer’s data will be the de facto report to the public.

"We encourage you to come in, get involved, and dispute things that are inaccurate," she said.

She and her colleague, Dr. Shantanu Agrawal, medical director of the agency’s Center for Program Integrity, urged physicians to track their own data.

In July, the CMS plans to release a free app for Android and Apple smartphones that will include all the categories that manufacturers must report. The agency also plans to release one for industry so that sales reps and others can upload data directly to physician contacts.

One physician questioned whether the public would "stampede" to get a look at the payment data, noting that he had never been asked by any patients whether a manufacturer had taken him to dinner. "I think it will be interesting to see if that occurs," said Dr. Agrawal.

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