The best news about the latest announcement concerning the Sunshine Act is that the changes aren’t that bad—even if it took a long time to find that out.
After almost a year of delays, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released the federal regulations required of health care manufacturers earlier this month. Most notably, they must now adhere to new reporting requirements when they interact with physicians and certain other health care professionals.
Associations that mount conferences and tradeshows serving the health care sector have been waiting since December 2011 for insight into what, if anything, they would have to do differently.
The answer, according to Healthcare Convention & Exhibitors Association Executive Vice President Jackie Beaulieu: “Overall, nothing was a big shock.”
The biggest takeaway is a timeline regarding when manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and medical devices would have to report “transfers of value” to the federal government. While there is no actual responsibility on the part of tradeshow organizers to do anything, it only makes sense, according to Beaulieu, that they would do whatever they could to help make the reporting burden easier for their exhibitors.
“Anything an association can do for their clients would probably be viewed as helpful,” she says.
Manufacturers must begin collecting data on what they might give to physicians and teaching hospitals—everything from honorariums for speaking to the cost of meals provided during conferences and tradeshows to educational materials—on Aug. 1. However, they will have until March 31, 2014, to report the information to the federal government and it will not be made public until Sept. 1, 2014.
“That’s good news,” says Randy Bauler, corporate relations and exhibits director for the American Association of Critical-care Nurses, “but, if anything, it puts up a challenge for companies.”
Bauler says many of the health care-sector manufacturers had anticipated requirements that would call for collecting data much earlier and had already invested in procedures and resources to do so.
“They’re geared up to do this right away,” Bauler says.
Although the entire report on the requirements is nearly 300 pages long, the crux of the impact on tradeshows and conferences is easy to describe. Besides the reporting dates:
• Manufacturers must collect National Provider Identification (NPI) numbers from physicians, something some tradeshow organizers already have begun doing as a service to their exhibitors.
• The rules make it clear who information must be reported on, mainly physicians and teaching hospitals.
• And, the rules make it clear that certain transfers of value need not be reported if the manufacturer does not know the identity of the recipient. For instance, while the value of meals provided to specific physicians must be reported, that is not the case with buffet meals, in which the food and beverages are provided to a large group of people, whose identities may not be known to the sponsoring companies.