CME Coalition member, the Coalition for Healthcare Communication's John Kamp, was again quoted regarding the recent Centers for Medicaid and Medicare (CMS) decision to redefine indirect payments for the Physician Payment Sunshine Act. In early 2013, CMS carved out a reporting exemption for accredited continuing medical education events, but reversed themselves this July when the agency sought to eliminate the language protecting payments made by bio companies without the knowledge or direction of speaker selections by CME providers. As Mr. Kamp said in the Wall Street Journal today, “In the end, CMS did the right thing [by redefining indirect payments]”
After months of debate over a portion of the Open Payments program, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has decided that there are circumstances in which companies do not have to report payments to physicians who speak at, or attend, continuing medical education seminars.
The decision came late last week as a rule change to the program, which maintains a federal database of payments made by drug and device makers to physicians. The program was created in response to concerns that financial ties may unduly influence medical practice and research (see page 595 here).
At issue has been the extent to which payments for continuing medical education should be included in the database. These so-called CME payments are made by manufacturers or group purchasing organizations to CME providers, which are either commercial firms or non-profits that organize courses for physicians.
From there, payments may be made to physicians who speak at or attend CME events. As a result, these are referred to as indirect payments. But due to scrutiny of industry influence, 83% of all CME courses are now funded by non-commercial sources, according to the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education.
Consumer groups argued that indirect payments for speaking and attending CME courses should be included in the Open Payments database and fought against a proposal to exclude such payments from reporting requirements. In their view, the possibility of industry influence was still ripe.
Conversely, the CMS rule change was cheered by industry. Drug and device makers, professional medical societies, medical publishers and advertising agencies, among others, maintained such a reporting requirement would have stifled continuing medical education.
“In the end, CMS did the right thing,” says John Kamp, who heads the Coalition for Healthcare Communication, a trade group for ad agencies and medical publishers. “The decision will likely lead to more robust participation of physicians in certified CME events sponsored by industry.”