Joint Press

KOHL QUESTIONS HHS SECRETARY ON SUNSHINE ACT


WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., today pressed Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on implementation of the Physician Payments Sunshine Act during a Senate Appropriations hearing on the department's budget request.

The Physician Payments Sunshine Act was developed by Kohl and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and signed into law as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The law requires public disclosure of the financial relationships between physicians and the pharmaceutical, medical device and biologics industries.

While the law also established deadlines for crafting regulations on collecting, reporting and making this information available to the public, HHS has not met these deadlines and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) continues to work on finalizing the regulations. 

"In my home state of Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote a series of reports on problems that arise when consumers do not know these payments are exchanging hands," Kohl said during the hearing. "Leading national newspapers wrote editorials supporting the Sunshine Act.  And, industry and consumer groups alike are calling for CMS to act on this piece of legislation. With all of this support, what is the delay?"

Sebelius said she shared Kohl's concerns and was committed to implementing the regulations by the end of the year. 

Kohl and Grassley have been pushing for the timely release of regulatory guidance for more than a year. In November 2010, Grassley and Kohl urged Sebelius to implement the Sunshine Act with adequate time for time for comment and review. And, on October 3, 2011, Kohl and Grassley again urged CMS to issue guidance and sought an explanation for having missed the October 1, 2011 deadline.