By Greg Garner
The Physician Payment Sunshine Act, signed into law by legislation in 2010 under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, enforces physicians, pharmaceutical companies, and medical supply manufacturers to report all monetary transaction and payments to the Secretary of Health and Human Services. These reports are then made freely available to the public over accessible and easily searchable websites and databases, giving individuals the ability to know whether or not their physician prescribes drugs and/or medical devices and products based upon need alone or manufacture pressure.
The Act is planned to go into full effect by 2014, but since its implementation there has been considerable pressure and about 30 lawsuits presented to overturn the law. However, controversial the Sunshine Act may be, there are additional benefits that will affect your life in more ways than one.
— Not only will the Sunshine Act protect individuals from paying for prescriptions that they don’t need or getting involved with financially thrifty physicians, the Act will also aim to improve the relationships and reduce potential conflicts that physicians and teaching hospitals may have with manufacturers.
— According to a Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited survey for Forbes Insights, over half of doctors that participated in the survey have relationships with the industry and 72% of the doctors claim that the new regulations under the Sunshine Act will not have adverse affects on their relationships.
— Although the Sunshine Act was devised to protect patients and provide more affordable care, the methods in which companies will try and fall into compliance with the regulations will be a costly and time efficient manner. Training courses to provide individuals with the knowledge of the regulations are available to aid in these difficult transitions.
— All U.S. manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies must make annual reports detailing payments to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, who also must submit annual reports to Congress and annual reports to each state.
— Many physicians and teaching hospitals meet regularly with pharmaceutical companies or manufacturers in order to further their health care education and discuss new methods of service. Many of these meetings occur over lunch or at seminars, while a majority of doctors get informed about new practices and medical products at seminars paid for by manufacture and pharmaceutical companies. With the Sunshine Act, these sorts of transactions, including lunches, will have to be recorded and reported.
Drug and medical device manufacturers are required to produce these reports in order to show a greater transparency between the physicians and their respective manufacturers of the products that they prescribe. However, reports have surfaced that show that these regulations may have little effect on prescribing practices of the physicians. Many physicians are afraid that gifts, trips to education seminars, or even free meals by manufacturer representatives will create the appearance of bribery and therefore decrease their respect among patients. Although reports will detail every transaction, the intent of the transactions will not be apparent to the public eye, where only the worst is presumed.
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