AARP, AFL-CIO urge OMB to issue Sunshine Act rules

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.


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