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On behalf of Pat Crispi at Keogh Crispi PC

In 2010, Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as the Affordable Care Act. One of the provisions of this wide-sweeping piece of legislation was the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, a law requiring public disclosure of payments physicians receive from companies. In February 2013, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the federal agency in charge of carrying out the law's requirements, announced the final rule for implementing the Act.

Mandatory disclosures

The Physician Payment Sunshine Act obligates manufacturers of medical devices and drugs to report all "transfers of value" they make to physicians. The term "physician" encompasses not only medical doctors, but doctors of osteopathy, dentists, optometrists, chiropractors and podiatrists who hold current licenses to practice. "Transfers of value" include meals, travel expenses, gifts, consulting fees and entertainment.

Companies must begin collecting the data for 2013 on August 1, continuing through December 31. Companies must report 2013 data to CMS by March 31, 2014. Manufacturers of medical devices and drugs have the reporting obligation annually going forward.

Public information

The impetus for the Physician Payment Sunshine Act was federal investigations into violations of anti-kickback laws in the health care industry. Lawmakers reasoned that there would be less chance of corruption if there were more public visibility into the financial relationships between manufacturers of medical devices, pharmaceutical companies and physicians.

As such, the law obligates CMS to create a searchable data base so the public can access the information the companies report. The data base will also provide information about relationships between companies and physicians, ownership interest in manufacturing companies that physicians or their immediate family members hold and any citations a company has been issued for violating reporting requirements.

Enforcing the Act

The law gives CMS the authority to levy fines of between $1,000 and $10,000 for every transfer of value a company fails to report, with the total not to exceed $100,000. However, fines can climb as high as $100,000 per unreported transfer of value if CMS determines that a company knowingly failed to report.

Speak with an attorney

Manufacturers of medical devices and pharmaceutical companies have the right to try to market their products to physicians. However, when financial relationships between these companies and physicians begin to influence care decisions that doctors make, doctors run the risk of committing medical malpractice - and patients suffer.

If you have been injured by a health care provider's error, talk to a seasoned medical malpractice attorney who can help determine the value of your claim and ensure that you receive just and proper compensation for your injuries.

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