CMS "Sunshine Act" Stakeholders Call Set for March 24

Announcement Sends Ominous Signal to Industry Stakeholders

 March 18, 2011 — The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has given the industry its first glimpse of how it will implement the national registry of payments to doctors by sending a notice of a stakeholders’ call for next week, and the glimpse is not encouraging. Sounding like CMS wants more regulation, not less, the notice starts out by asking what “additional” payments beyond those specified in the statute should be considered. 

The HHS/CMS conference call on the implementation and potential expansion of the Physician Payment Sunshine Provision of the Affordable Care Act, is entitled “Open Door Forum on Transparency Reports and Reporting of Physician Ownership or Investment Interests.” CMS says it is: “seeking stakeholder input on a number of topics defined in the statute.” Those include:

  • Comments on additional forms and natures of payment and transfer of value to be considered by HHS.
  • Accessibility

    to and usability of the reported data by consumers.

  • Mechanisms for accurate, efficient, and cost-effective reporting of data. 

Details for the call:

Date: Thursday, March 24, 2011

Time: 2:00PM – 4:00PM EST

Number: 1-800-837-1935

Conference ID: 51513526

** Capacity is limited so dial in early. You may begin dialing into this forum as early as 1:45PM EST.
Submit additional thoughts or feedback following the session to an email address established for this purpose:

Commentary on why this issue matters to stakeholders — from Peter Pitts of Porter Novelli – provided below:

Be there or be square – as in squarely in the crosshairs of the COI Polloi. (COI = Conflict of Interest).
According to the HHS/CMS announcement, “The Physician Payment Sunshine Act has the potential to bring about a systemic shift in the health care industry, with government taking a larger role in care of patients.”

Just what everyone (and by “everyone,” I mean “the American public”) fears – “government taking a larger role in care of patients.”

If you go back and look at all the rhetoric surrounding this particular piece of legislation, you will not find a call for “government taking a larger role in the care of patients.”

But, per the good folks in the Humphrey Building, this law certainly does have the potential for significant and severe mission creep. And that’s where it’ll be headed unless we all start paying attention.

And the first person to be queried on this is Senator “Sunshine Charles” Grassley. Is this what he intended? Here’s what he said: ““Shedding light on industry payments to physicians would be good for the system. Transparency fosters accountability, and the public has a right to know about financial relationships.” 

Nothing there about “government taking a larger role in the care of patients.”

Further, since this conference call is being advertised as an “open door,” perhaps it’s time to open the door to a discussion about the incentives physicians get from insurance companies to switch patients from brand name to generic medicines, or from trial lawyers to be expert witnesses?

If physicians and academicians are paid by industry for their medical expertise – and those payments are important to disclose – why aren’t payments for that same expertise important to disclose when they’re being used by insurance companies and lawyers?

When is a conflict not a conflict? The answer, it seems – is when it’s convenient to the Brotherhood of the Conflict of Interest Priesthood, the COI Polloi.

Who’s pure and who isn’t? Here’s the answer – nobody is 100% pure. Not even Ivory Soap is 100% pure – and it floats!

In the Feb. 7, 2009, edition of The Lancet, Richard Horton points out that the battle lines being drawn between clinician, medical research and the pharmaceutical industry are artificial at best — and dangerous at worst. Dangerous, because all three constituencies are working towards the same goal — improved patient outcomes.

His main point is that we must dismantle the battlements and embrace of philosophy of “symbiosis not schism.” It’s what’s in the best interest of the patient.

The thought of expanding the Sunshine Act to facilitate “government taking a larger role in the care of patients” is an unsunny proposition indeed.

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