Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

March 08 2013

Shedding Light on the Sunshine Act

By David McMillin, Staff Writer

sunshine_newsHave you been in the dark on the real implications of the Sunshine Act? On March 5, the PCMA New England Chapter presented an educational panel for medical meeting planners who are still working to grasp the full impact of new regulations.

Medical device, pharmaceutical, biological and medical supply companies are all preparing for a big day: March 31. That’s when their first reports of all payments and transfers of value made to physicians for more than $10 are due to Health and Human Services. With looming uncertainty around the future of medical meetings, the meeting dug into what those reports will include.

The location of the panel was fitting. While the entire country is preparing for a new era of healthcare, Massachusetts has been dealing with similar compliance issues for quite some time.

The Expense of Eating

The Sunshine Act brings some subjectivity to the table - - literally. Bill Mandell, Pierce & Mandell, explained to participants that the industry must use good judgment when it comes to defining a “modest” meal.

“It’s basically a common sense approach,” Mandell said.

That approach can be interpreted differently depending on where you are in the country, though.

“There is recognition that there are regional differences,” Marissa Seligman, PharmD, CCMEP, Chief Clinical & Regulatory Affairs and Compliance Officer for DBC Pri-Med, LLC and Senior Vice President, pmiCME, said.

For example, a nice meal in New York City may have a much different price tag than a dinner in Birmingham.

“If your exhibitors are having a function in a restaurant or a conference facility, you can help guide them on what a modest meal is in your area,” Seligman said.

As companies continue to host those meals, it’s important for the medical meeting planning community to be reasonable when it comes to how they are structured and what is served.

“We as a community must make sure that these are professional interactions,” Seligman said. “What would it look like as a patient if you knew your doctors were consuming large amounts of alcohol at these events?”

More Than Meals

Of course, those reports will include much more than sponsored dinners and networking receptions. The $10 value cutoff means that companies will need to report journals, textbooks and other educational resources. As medical exhibitors are accustomed to offering all kinds of giveaways to increase booth traffic, show organizers will need to ensure that they are fully updated on what these new reports mean for the healthcare community.

Educating PhDs on the Sunshine Act

While show organizers and meeting planners can take steps to teach exhibitors about the ins and outs of the Sunshine Act, it looks like physicians themselves need some additional education, too. A recent survey of 1,000+ physicians conducted by MMIS, Inc. and Healthcare Data Solutions shows that more than half of doctors do not know that the law now requires medical companies to submit annual expense reports.

The survey also shows that physicians are worried about what the reports may mean for them. Sixty-three percent of respondents indicated that they were deeply concerned that these reports will be available in a public database.

Those concerns mean that the industry is going to need to work together to ensure that these reports are correct.

“Increasing transparency of the relationship between industry and our healthcare providers will undoubtedly encourage scrutiny by the public, physician peers and their institutions,” Michaeline Daboul, CEO, MMIS, said in a statement. “Government, industry and physician organizations will need to increase communication in this new age of transparency, share data prior to public dissemination and provide a process for physicians and institutions to resolve disputes regarding incorrect or inaccurate information.”

For more insights into how the Sunshine Act will impact your work, click here to read helpful insights from Ober Kaler, an East Coast law firm that focuses on the healthcare sector.

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