The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is finally going to “let the sunshine in” with the implementation of the Physician Payments Sunshine Act beginning January 2013. As part of the Affordable Care Act, the Sunshine Act requires public disclosure of the financial relationships between physicians and manufacturers including pharmaceutical, medical device and biologic companies. The proposed rule was released in December of 2011, but establishing reporting procedures as well as procedures for making information available to the public delayed the implementation of the law.

In May 2012, manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies were informed that their companies were to collect data beginning January 2013. On December 4, 2012, CMS sent the final rule to the Office of Management and Budget. The OMB is expected to release a summary of the rule soon after the first of the year. Hopefully, the many comments received by the CMS during the “comment period” in 2011 have helped better define the many areas where the law was unclear. Senator Herb Kohl, one of the co‐authors of the Sunshine Act stated, “ the act was not meant to be cumbersome” but how can it not be cumbersome when you are preparing to document every $10 payment of food, honoraria, speaking fees, travel, etc. There are penalties up to $1,000,000 involved for the failure to report payments.

We are continually asked how this affects the physicians we serve. Certified continuing medical education events will not require documentation. Physicians who have a couple of lunches provided in their office each week for a small to moderate staff should not be overly concerned about the reports. There is concern among the teaching institutions and those conducting research regarding the effects of reports. The “comment period” revealed concerns regarding the accuracy of reports, proper identification of physicians, and how the physicians would dispute a report and appeal if incorrect information had been reported. There is still a question on whether or not physicians will have an opportunity to review reports from drug and device manufacturers before they are posted. Hopefully, the final rule will ease much of the anxiety related to this law. The data collected will be placed on public registries to provide transparency to patients.

There is one thing for sure, physicians are already faced with more change than healthcare has ever experienced. We encourage managers to ask questions when food or other items are provided for the office regarding the amount that will be reported, and to whom the cost will be reported. Once the summary of the final rule is released, discuss the guidelines with your physicians and decide on any polices you might want to implement. Our healthcare division will continue keep you posted on this important legislation.