From: Healthwatch/The Hill’s Healthcare Blog
By Elise Viebeck
Powerful healthcare advocates pressed the Obama administration Monday to issue long-overdue regulations that would expose financial relationships between doctors and industry.
AARP, the AFL-CIO and 17 other healthcare advocacy groups told the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that regulations for the Physician Payments Sunshine Act are essential to protect patients and eliminate fraud in Medicare and Medicaid.
“There is a significant consequence for healthcare system costs associated with the ongoing delay in implementation because of the practice by some physicians of over-prescribing certain drugs, or by otherwise prescribing medically unnecessary and expensive treatments,” the groups wrote.
“The Sunshine Act provides patients with the right to know about potential conflicts of interest between their physician and industry, and will help to protect patients from payments or financial relationships that could compromise the quality or cost of their healthcare,” the letter added.
The Sunshine Act, from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and former Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), was passed as part of President Obama’s signature healthcare law. It requires drug, device and biologic manufacturers to tell federal health officials about payments and gifts to doctors, and establishes penalties for industry players who do not comply.
The law also orders an online database making the payment disclosures accessible to the public.
“I have said from the very beginning, if the information provided to the public is not concise, easily readable and understandable, then we have all failed the American taxpayer,” Grassley said in September.
He expressed frustration with regulators’ delay in issuing final regulations, noting that the proposed rule came out in Dec. 2011.
“I am never one to put a lot of stock into rumors, but one that keeps popping up is that [the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services] has completed the final rule and sent it over to OMB — but OMB will not issue the final regulation until after the election,” Grassley said.
Monday’s letter was not the first this year to demand Sunshine Act implementation.
The American Medical Student Association and the National Physicians Alliance made a similar plea on Jan. 3 in a letter to White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew.