CMS Temporarily Suspends Open Payments Site’s Verification System

August 5, 2014 in News

CMS has temporarily suspended the verification system for its physician payment website after at least one doctor discovered the site incorrectly attributed payments to him, ProPublica reports (Ornstein, ProPublica, 8/4).

Background

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.

In late July, CMS began allowing physicians to log on to the site and review disclosures on themselves and report inaccuracies (iHealthBeat, 7/22).

Verification System Issues

David Mann — a Kentucky-based electrophysiologist — in a blog post wrote how he discovered that payments to a Florida-based oncologist with the same name had been included in his records.

In response, CMS examined the issue and determined that at least one manufacturer submitted incorrect data that combined the name, address and national provider identifier of a physician with the wrong state medical license. CMS’ system then combined the data with the physician who held that license.

CMS spokesman Aaron Albright in an email to ProPublica said, “To protect physician privacy and correct the issue, we have taken the system offline temporarily and will work with the industry to eliminate incorrect payment records.”

According to ProPublica, Johnson Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals appears to have reported payments for both doctors sharing the name David Mann.

Comments

In a statement, the company said it is “committed to accurate reporting of all physician payments” and “take[s] any concerns raised seriously.”

However, Mann took issue with the error, noting the rigorous verification process CMS had doctors go through to access their payment data. In an email to ProPublica, he said, “It’s unbelievable that they would lump together docs from different states with different NPIs,” adding, “After going through such a process verifying who you are, it’s ridiculous that they then ignore the identifying data” (ProPublica, 8/4).

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