A story in our most recent MedExpo e-newsletter points out some of the impacts the Sunshine Act, associated with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), might have on health care tradeshows. The reality is, the impact probably will be far less severe than people might have feared—but that doesn’t mean everybody is relaxing.
If you run a show far afield from health care and are at this point thinking, “Huh?” we’ll catch you up:
The Sunshine Act provisions of the ACA are designed to make manufacturers report any “transfers of value” (i.e., honorariums for speaking, lunches, pens and coffee mugs, educational materials, whatever).
I know. It sounds horrifying, doesn’t it? What if you’re, say, the manager of a tradeshow and professional conference that’s expecting around 30,000 doctors to show up. They’re looking to get their CEM taken care of and you’ve got 500 or so exhibiting companies that want to make contact with them. Does every single gift, flash drive, cup of coffee or appetizer have to be accounted for?
Yes and no. But first off, it’s not your job. Or, at least not your most important job. The onus is on the manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and medical devices (along with a few other things), although show managers are realizing it might be good business to help their customers out a little bit.
Second, the rules don’t apply to everybody. There are certain shows that have heavier physician registrations than others. Finally, manufacturers don’t have to actually start collecting the information until August and don’t have to report it until later in 2014.
But as Randy Bauler with the American Association of Critical-care Nurses pointed out to me, it’s not just the rules—or potential rules—that have got people on edge. It’s the atmosphere that was introduced four or five years ago with new voluntary restrictions connected to the PhRMA and AdvaMed codes, followed by the ADA and the Sunshine Act.
As Bauler says (after he quickly notes, “Remember, I’m not a lawyer. This is not legal advice.”), the health care-sector manufacturers—and, by extension, your exhibitors—are afraid to do almost anything right now. They’re too anxious about what they don’t know about what’s going to happen.
One of his main concerns, vis a vis all the changes in health care that are in the works, is the 2.3-percent excise tax that will hit many companies in the health care sector. Bauler is worried that marketing budgets will be cut to accommodate the extra expense.
“I’ve already had one or two exhibitors who have to cut down the size of their booth or cancel because of the impact of health care reform,” he says.
Health care reform’s effect on the tradeshow industry has been a slow-moving machine that came to life four or five years ago. And yet, I have a feeling we still haven’t seen the most significant changes to the way business is done on the showfloor.
Michael Hart is executive editor of Expo Magazine. He can be reached at email@example.com.