For next month’s launch of the Open Payment database showing payments to physicians from pharmaceutical companies and medical device makers, about one-third of the records will be withheld because of data inconsistencies.
The release of payment information – intended to promote greater transparency about possible conflicts of interest in medicine – is mandated under the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, a provision of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, according to the non-profit investigative journalism group ProPublica.
The data flaws came to light when the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services was investigating a complaint from a physician that payments to another physician of the same name had been attributed to him. CMS found that some physicians were linked to medical license numbers or national provider identification numbers that were not theirs, ProPublica reports. These records won’t be posted until the next reporting cycle in June 2015. The first release of records is slated for September 30, covering payments made from August 1 to December 31, 2013.
CMS suspended the verification system for 11 days while officials investigated the discrepancies in the records. Physicians will have until September 8 to review their data. Dr. Shantanu Agrawal, CMS Deputy Administrator and director of the Center for Program Integrity, said, “CMS . . . took swift action after a physician reported a problem.” He said CMS had “instituted a system fix to prevent similar errors.”
But ProPublica said physicians have reported that CMS, in correcting errors, had removed accurate payment data. Three of the four companies that reported payments to “have now disappeared” from his record, one physician said.