Govt. won't begin collecting physician payment data until 2013

The federal government will delay carrying out a key part of the health care overhaul aimed at shedding light on the financial relationships between doctors, drug companies, and medical device makers.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid announced in a blog post that it needs more time and won't begin collecting the data under the so-called Physician Payments Sunshine Act until 2013. The delay is necessary to give reporting organizations time to prepare, and for the agency to digest public comments on the issue.

One of the authors, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, called the delay unconscionable considering the bill was signed into law two years ago.

"We're just trying to inform the public on who's consulting and what are they getting paid for. It's not like we're putting people out of business; we just want some reporting," Grassley said.

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CMS said it was delaying the implementation in order to give organizations that are required to report time to prepare and for the agency to digest the input it received during the rulemaking process.

Mayo Clinic cardiologist Doug Wood doubts the delay will affect Minnesota much.

"Many organizations in Minnesota already report information. And so from that perspective, I don't think it'll have a big impact on Minnesota organizations," Wood said. "And hopefully CMS will be able to get this regulation up and implemented in the new time frame without, hopefully, additional delay."

All three big medical device companies operating in Minnesota have paid millions of dollars to settle federal kickback allegations. Boston Scientific now discloses payments to physicians and Medtronic reports payments of more than $5,000 per year.