CMS delays Sunshine Act data collection

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is delaying a key part of the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, in which the agency won't start collecting data until 2013, CMS announced Thursday.

Under the Affordable Care Act, CMS published a proposed rule in December 2011 with the goal of improving transparency of gifts to physicians and the reporting of physician ownership and investment interests. CMS received more than 300 comments.

"In order to provide time for organizations to prepare for data submission and to sufficiently address the important input we received during the rule-making process, CMS will not require data collection by applicable manufacturers and applicable group-purchasing organizations before January 1, 2013," CMS said in the blog post.

The delay doesn't sit well with Sen. Chuck Grassley and Sen. Herb Kohl, the authors of the Sunshine Act. Calling the news "disappointing," Grassley said, "The process has dragged on long past the statutory deadline for implementation." The Sunshine Act was signed into law in 2010. HHS was supposed to come up with final reporting procedures by October 1, 2011, to release to the public, but CMS didn't propose a draft until December 2011.

"While I am disappointed by this delay and the timeline, I do look forward to working with CMS to finalize the rules so that data collection can begin in January 2013," Kohl added.

For some states that already report gifts, the delay won't affect them much.

"Many organizations in Minnesota already report information. And so from that perspective, I don't think it'll have a big impact on Minnesota organizations," Mayo Clinic cardiologist Doug Wood told Minnesota Public Radio.

Vermont has reported since 2002, according to Kaiser Health News. Total payments to physicians in the state dropped 13 percent in fiscal year 2009.

CMS plans to release the final rule later this year, it said.

For more information:
- see the CMS blog announcement
- here's the Grassley statement
- read the MPR article
- here's the Kaiser Health News article

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