As healthcare reform moves through Congress, power moves from the hands of committee chairmen to the speaker and the Senate majority leader, who will decide, with little input, what stays in and out of the final bills. Both bills contain physician payment sunshine provisions requiring manufacturers to report payments of greater than $5-$10 to physicians and organizations.
The Senate version was worked on by Sens. Herb Kohl and Chuck Grassley for over two years in one of the best bipartisan collaborations ever on Capitol Hill. Both senators’ staffs received input from numerous individuals and organizations to determine the most workable version. The goal was to capture the most useful information and, at the same time, not disrupt industry and the practice of medicine. Their version was captured in the final Senate Finance version of the healthcare reform bills.
The House Sunshine provision is the exact opposite. The drafter, Rep. Peter Stark, did not go out and build any type of consensus or solicit input from others. Instead, he took a report that was developed by the Medicare Payment Advisory Council and put it into bill form with a whole lot of additional provisions. So, instead of just capturing physician payments, the House bill covers payments to every single entity that a pharma, device, insurance company and group purchasing organization may have. In addition, the bill gives industry less than two months to get in compliance with the reporting provisions or pay fines of over $1 million or a percentage of gross receipts. Let us hope that reasonable minds rule the day and the Senate provision is chosen over its unworkable House counterpart.
Tom Sullivan is president of CME provider Rockpointe