Berwick’s Response to Sunshine Act Co-sponsors Fails to Predict CMS Implementation Plans

Nov. 1, 2011 – In response to a recent letter from Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), co-sponsors of the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, regarding a missed Oct. 1 deadline for issuing implementation guidelines, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Donald Berwick pointed to an Executive Order issued by President Obama as the reason for the delay.

This directive calls on all federal agencies to take steps to reduce regulatory burden. Although Berwick states that he believes “we can implement the statutory goals [of the Sunshine Act] … while minimizing burden on the regulated parties,” and that CMS is “working hard to ensure we meet these goals,” Berwick does not respond directly to the concerns raised by Grassley and Kohl in his Oct. 28 response letter. He does indicate that CMS staff members are “engaged in stakeholder outreach regarding the implementation of the provision,” but does not offer any new timeframe for that implementation.

In their Oct. 3 letter to Berwick, the senators expressed their “severe disappointment” that proposed regulations to implement the Sunshine Act were not issued by the Oct. 1 deadline imposed by the Affordable Care Act. An Oct. 25 letter from several industry organizations to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius also called on the federal government to move forward with issuing regulations now that the effective date for industry is a mere nine weeks away.

“CMS Administrator Berwick is absolutely

right to focus on the need to balance the value and the burden of Sunshine Act compliance,” said John Kamp, executive director of the Coalition for Healthcare Communication. “The next best step would be to reset the start date so that everyone has an opportunity to digest and comply with the rules.”