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December 04, 2013

Physician Payment Sunshine Act: Bipartisan Congressional Letter Calls for Exemption of Textbooks and Reprints

23 members of the United States House of Representatives sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to voice their disagreement with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) decision to include textbooks and scientifically peer-reviewed medical journals as "transfers of value" reportable under the Physician Payment Sunshine Act.

As reported by the Coalition for Healthcare Communication, the letter demonstrates that there is widespread disagreement with the current HHS policy. The signatories state: "The importance of up-to-date, peer-reviewed scientific medical information as the foundation for good medical care is well documented."

They also assert that Congress outlined 12 specific exclusions from the Sunshine Act reporting requirements, including "educational materials that directly benefit patients or are intended for patient use," and that CMS' interpretation that reprints and textbooks do not fall under this category "is inconsistent with the statutory language on its face, congressional intent, and the reality of clinical practice where patients benefit directly from improved physician medical knowledge."

The letter also notes: "[T]he reporting requirement presents a clear disincentive for clinicians to accept high-quality, independent educational materials, an outcome that was unintended when the provision was passed into law" and claims that if the final regulations stand, they "could inadvertently prevent" physicians and patients from receiving these materials, and "thereby undermine efforts to improve the quality of care provided to patients."

A full copy of the letter can be found here.

According to John Kamp, Executive Director of the Coalition for Healthcare Communication, the letter: "should help demonstrate to the CMS rulemaking team that it simply erred in including texts and reprints among reportable items under the Sunshine Act." He also noted that the letter: "confirms the opinion of 33 physician organizations and 41 national and state medical societies that the statute did not include these items and that doing so is not in the best interest of patients."

The following House members, seven of which are physicians, signed the letter:

  • Rob Andrews (D-N.J.)
  • Michael Burgess (R-Tx.)
  • Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.)
  • Richard Neal (D-Mass.)
  • Pat Meehan (R-Pa.)
  • Andy Harris, M.D. (R-Md.)
  • Phil Gingrey, M.D. (R-Ga.)
  • Paul Broun, M.D. (R-Ga.)
  • Tom Price (R-Ga.)
  • Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.)
  • Michael Turner (R-Ohio)
  • Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.)
  • John Tierney (D-Mass.)
  • Michael Capuano (D-Mass.)
  • Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.)
  • Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.)
  • Charles Boustany Jr., M.D. (R-La.)
  • Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.)
  • Dan Benishek, M.D. (R-Mich.)
  • Bill Johnson (R-Ohio)
  • Kathy Castor (D-Fla.)
  • Robert Brady (D-Pa.)
  • Ann Wagner (R-Mo.)

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