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Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

National Health Reform is Good For Massachusetts: Prescription Sunshine

National Health Reform is Good For Massachusetts: Prescription Sunshine

March 17, 2010

Today's guest blogger is Kate Petersen, communications coordinator for Community Catalyst, and a blogger for Postscript, their blog covering prescription drug issues.

Provisions in national health care reform would require all drug companies, device, and medical supply manufacturers to fully disclose and report any gifts they make or financial arrangements they have with doctors, a physician practice or group. These ‘Sunshine provisions,’ modeled after a bill introduced in the Senate in 2007 by Senators Herb Kohl and Charles Grassley, have bipartisan, bicameral support, and were included in the health care reform bills passed by both the House and Senate this winter.

The proposal, which has won industry acceptance, would help Massachusetts by taking over the collection of payment data and disclosure database established in 2008 when the state passed a strong disclosure bill of its own. Paired with a bill that limits gifting and marketing payments to doctors in chapter 305, the 2008 omnibus health quality and cost bill, Massachusetts’ law mirrors the national proposal. Passing national health reform would move the cost of administering the disclosure law from Massachusetts to the US Department of Health and Human Services, while providing Massachusetts consumers and policymakers access to the same important data. And by creating a uniform and publicly searchable database, Sunshine would also provide patients and regulators in Massachusetts an important context and crosscheck for assessing the outcomes of the Bay State’s own law.

The inclusion of ‘Sunshine’ in national health reform reflects a growing consensus about the need for robust transparency of the financial relationships between providers and the pharmaceutical and device industries, including recommendations by the Institute of Medicine and the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission.