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House Members Speak Out Against Inclusion of Textbooks, Reprints in Sunshine Act Reporting

Nov. 26, 2013 – On Nov. 22, 23 members of the U.S. 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. The letter demonstrates that there is widespread disagreement with the current HHS policy.

“This letter from 23 prominent House Members – who are leaders of both parties – should help demonstrate to the CMS rulemaking team that it simply erred in including texts and reprints among reportable items under the Sunshine Act,” according to John Kamp, Executive Director, Coalition for Healthcare Communication. “It also 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.” (For a related story, see http://www.cohealthcom.org/?p=2016.)

The letter’s co-signers state that “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 states that as currently written, “the 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 notes 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.”

“Many thanks go to Congressmen Rob Andrews [D-N.J.] and Dr. Michael Burgess [R-Texas] for leading on this issue,” Kamp said. “We trust that CMS will meet with these Members of Congress to get a more detailed view of the intent of the statute. Meanwhile, ad agency and publisher representatives will continue to meet with government and industry leaders to pursue a quick resolution of the issues.”

In addition to Andrews and Burgess, House members who signed the letter are:

  • 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.)

Including Burgess, seven of the co-signers are physicians.

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