News Feature | July 16, 2014

Sunshine Act To Shine Light On Physician Finances

Katie Wike

By Katie Wike, contributing writer

Sunshine Act Physician Finances

In September, a federal database containing payments made to providers will become available to the public.

A database containing comprehensive physician payment information, a result of the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, will be launched in September. According to iHealth Beat, the Sunshine Act, also known as Open Payments, requires medical industry companies to disclose consulting fees, travel reimbursements, research grants, and other gifts they give to physicians and teaching hospitals.

Since last August, “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 was required to be reported to CMS by March 31, 2014.

“I think every patient out there should know who actually is paying their doctor,” says Paul Thacker, a fellow at Harvard University’s Safra Center for Ethics, in an article for the Wall Street Journal. “The one thing we know is that money changes behavior and people tend to respond to who is giving them money.”

“Nearly 95 percent of U.S. physicians accept gifts, meals, payments, travel and other services from companies that make the drugs and medical products they prescribe, according to the New England Journal of Medicine” writes the WSJ. “This has been a common practice for decades and studies show it affects doctors’ prescribing decisions. But for the first time, patients will soon be able draw back the curtain.”

“If someone gets significant consulting fees or speaking fees, I would be more concerned about that because they are doing something that has been shown in studies to change their prescribing habits,” said Dr. Leana Wen of The George Washington University, who teaches at the university’s emergency medicine department.