Sunshine Act Expands, Creates More Thorny Issues

Anne L. Finger, MA


August 11, 2014

In This Article

More Scope for the Sunshine Act?

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Open Payments program (aka the Sunshine Act) just got much cloudier.

When CMS issued its Final Rule in 2013, it stated that the compensation physicians received for teaching continuing medical education (CME) activities did not have to be disclosed as payment from a drug or medical device company.

But in July, CMS proposed entirely eliminating the CME exemption as one of several changes to the 2015 Physician Fee Schedule. It explained that some accrediting organizations that weren't named last year were requesting exemptions for their speakers, and other stakeholders found inconsistencies in the continuing education reporting requirements.[1] Eliminating the CME exemption was intended to address these inconsistencies while removing what CMS said was a redundancy in another section of the Act.

But many physicians feel that removal of the exemption somehow taints CME and, by extension, its participants.

What's more, some are concerned that the ambiguity will deter not just the speakers at CME activities, but also the attendees. Could you wind up getting publicly listed for a dinner or handouts you received while receiving an update on the latest developments in treating hypertension? And if that's the case, should you proactively register with the CMS portal so you can check to see that the information submitted about you is accurate? And do you care?

Tell CMS to expand the Sunshine Act exemption for CME

And this is happening at a time when industry-supported CME activities continue to decrease. According to the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) 2013 Annual Report, only 17% of 138,000 activities produced by ACCME- and state-accredited providers received commercial support last year.[2]


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