Medical, Pharma Groups Ask CMS for Details on Payment Database

July 29, 2014 in News

On Monday, several medical societies and a pharmaceutical industry group sent a letter to CMS asking for more details about how data will be displayed on its soon-to-be released physician payment database, Wall Street Journal‘s “Pharmalot” reports (Loftus, “Pharmalot,” Wall Street Journal, 7/28).


In February 2013, CMS released a long-awaited final rule on the Physician Payment Sunshine Act — also known as the OPEN PAYMENTS system – and outlined a timeline for its implementation.

The Sunshine Act requires medical industry companies to disclose consulting fees, travel reimbursements, research grants and other gifts that they give to physicians and teaching hospitals.

As of August 2013, manufacturers of pharmaceutical and biological drugs, medical devices and medical supplies have been required to report all transfers of monetary value over $10 to physicians and teaching hospitals.

All data collected from August 2013 through December 2013 had to be reported to CMS by March 31, 2014, according to the final rule. The final rule also called for physicians to be given a 45-day “review and correction” period to ensure the accuracy of any disclosures to CMS.

The federal government plans to publicly release the online database of payments in September in an effort to promote transparency (iHealthBeat, 7/22).

Letter Details

The letter was signed by more than 20 medical societies and organizations, including:

  • The American Association of Neurological Surgeons;
  • The American Urological Association;
  • The Biotechnology Industry Organization; and
  • The Pharmaceutical Research Manufacturers of America.

In the letter, stakeholders asked CMS to explain how data will be presented on the website and what context will be available to help consumers distinguish between payments (“Pharmalot,” Wall Street Journal, 7/28). The stakeholders cited the lack of context provided in CMS’ public release of Medicare Part B payments, writing, “[T]he only information included and made available to the public was related to names and numbers … We do not believe this is an effective way to share data with the public and, in fact, can lead to confusion and misinterpretation” (Letter, 7/28).

In addition, the letter requests that CMS promote awareness of the payment database among physicians, noting that many providers still remain unaware that the data are about to go public.

CMS Response

In response to the letter, a CMS spokesperson said the agency plans to make available the nature and context of each payment or transfer of value it includes in the database.

Further, the spokesperson said the agency has an “extensive ongoing outreach campaign” in the works to educate and inform physicians about the website.

For example, CMS had mobile applications created that will be available at no cost to physicians to help them track payments, according to the spokesperson (“Pharmalot,” Wall Street Journal, 7/28).

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