"Buried deep within the massive health care overhaul passed by Congress are tough new laws that will soon shine a much-needed light on physicians' lucrative financial ties to industry. Known as the Physician Payments Sunshine provisions, these are some of the most significant, yet unheralded, reforms contained in the historic health care legislation signed by President Obama last month.
The Sunshine provisions, long championed by Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, deal with the myriad consulting arrangements, speaking fees, trips, dinners and other gifts -- dubbed "transfers of value" in industry jargon -- provided to doctors at clinics large and small across the nation. The reforms will require public disclosure of payments -- generally $10 or more -- from manufacturers of drugs, medical devices, biologics and medical supplies. These firms will also have to report similar payments made to teaching hospitals.
The Sunshine reforms are an overdue dose of medicine to make providers and industry more accountable to the public. For far too long, too little has been known about vast sums of money flowing from industry to doctors. According to the nonpartisan Pew Prescription Project, the drug industry spends $30 billion a year on marketing, mostly on direct marketing to physicians; $1 billion is spent on lunches alone. A groundbreaking 1993 Minnesota law requiring disclosure of many drug company payments found that $104 million went to medical staff, clinics and other organizations in the state between 1997 and 2005."