Multiple letters between the senators that authored the original Physician Payments Sunshine Act and CMS have recently added clarity to the timeline for the final rule and when data gathering is likely to start in earnest. As part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), the Sunshine Act was supposed to be finalized last October with data gathering slated to begin in 2012. As that date slipped and a comment period was opened early in 2012, it became clear that any data gathering this year was going to be difficult to achieve.
In April, Sen. Chuck Grassley and Sen. Herb Kohl sent a letter requesting an update on the status of the final rule. The letter voiced their desire for CMS to “be clear on guidelines and context so that the data posted online is meaningful and understandable”. The senators also recommended swift action on finalizing the rule. A suggested deadline of June was proposed so that data gathering could still be performed this year.
Acting Administrator & Chief Operating Officer of CMS, Marilyn Tavenner, responded to the senators in early May. Her letter outlined some reasons for the delay and positive steps that CMS has taken on implementing the final rule.
- CMS received over 300 comments earlier this year and is working to address these. Comments from various stakeholders are being taken into consideration and will be represented in the final rule.
- A working group has been established of both technical and policy staff to assess the resource requirements for full implementation.
- The notion of data gathering in 2012 has been eliminated. The earliest data gathering will be required is January 2013.
- CMS provides more information on a web page titled, Affordable Care Act in Action at CMS.
If the timeline of a final rule in the fall, followed data gathering early next year sounds familiar to anyone tracking progress on the Sunshine Act, it should. When the rule is finalized at the end of this year, it will be almost exactly a year delayed from the timeframe outlined in the PPACA, which originally called for a final rule in October of 2011 with data gathering to begin on Jan. 1 2012. That might not be such a bad thing given that some recent surveys show that more than half (56%) of physicians surveyed are concerned about the Sunshine Act. Clearly there is more education work necessary to get physicians more comfortable with the transparency that the Sunshine Act promises.
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