'Sunshine Act' affects meals, honoraria, gifts for physicians

by Tom O'Connor, UNMC public relations | September 05, 2013

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A law designed to bring transparency to financial relationships between physicians, teaching hospitals, and the pharmaceutical industry went into effect Aug. 1 and is something that all physicians need to heed.

The Physician Payment Sunshine Act, referred to as OPEN PAYMENTS, was passed as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010.

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The Sunshine Act requires manufacturers of pharmaceutical drugs and devices, as well as group purchasing organizations, to report payments or transfers of value made to U.S. physicians and teaching hospitals, including The Nebraska Medical Center and Children's Hospital & Medical Center.

Things that must be reported include:

  • Payments for research, such as grants. Generally, UNMC will be listed as the recipient of the research funds, with the name of the physician principal investigator listed also.
  • Payments for speaker's honoraria, travel expenses, meals, entertainment, gifts, educational materials like text books or journal reprints.
  • Participating in a paid advisory board.
  • Payment for writing manuscripts.

The law also requires manufacturers and GPOs to report physicians who have an ownership interest in the company. Reports are made to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a government agency.

Reports are only required for physicians licensed to practice in the United States. Physicians include M.D.s, D.O.s, dentists, podiatrists, optometrists and chiropractors. This excludes medical students, residents, support and office staff, nurses, advance practice nurses, physician assistants, and others.

"While physicians and teaching hospitals do not have any reporting obligations under the regulations, they will have the ability to register with CMS in 2014 to validate listed payments are accurate and challenge payments they believe are incorrect prior to the payments being made available to the public," said Sheila Wrobel, UNMC conflict of interest officer.

"This is definitely something that physicians need to put on their radar screen," said Lois Colburn, executive director of continuing education for UNMC.

Some payments and transfers are exempt, Colburn said. These include:

  • Payments for speakers and faculty at certain accredited CME events.
  • Food and beverage provided to all attendees of a large scale conference or meeting.
  • Product samples intended for use by patients.
  • Educational materials for use by or with patients, such as anatomical models.
  • Payments or transfers of less than $10 in value, unless they exceed $100 in annual aggregate.

More information on the Sunshine Act is available here or by contacting Wrobel at 9-6767 or Colburn at 9-2824.

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