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Feds paying closer attention to MDs' financial relationships

Over the last several decades, state and federal regulators, as well as health care advocacy groups, have been expressing concern over financial relationships between physicians and health care companies.  

The primary concern is that these financial relationships could somehow create potential conflicts of interests that jeopardize patient care. A common example used by these critics is a physician recommending a particular surgical implant because of their financial relationship with a holding company that sells the device, not because it's the best option for the patient.    

Interestingly, efforts to create greater transparency surrounding the financial relationships between physicians and health care companies were recently taken to a different level thanks to a new federal Open Payments database specifically designed for public access.   

This database -- established as part of the Affordable Care Act and managed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services -- doesn't just disclose information on investments between physicians and health care companies, but also reveals details on consulting arrangements, gifts and even travel reimbursement.

What all of this means is that the CMS is "collect[ing] information from applicable manufacturers and group purchasing organizations (GPOs) in order to report information about their financial relationships with physicians and hospitals."

In other words, federal regulators will now be strictly monitoring financial relationships between doctors and health care companies even though such arrangements often prove beneficial to patients and can even expand treatment access.

As such, physicians with any existing financial relationships or mulling entering into such relationships will want to remain aware of the following:

  • The federal Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits any payments designed to induce physicians to refer patients enrolled in federal government insurance programs in a certain way.
  • The Minnesota Board of Medical Practice mandates that all licensed physicians must disclose any potential financial conflicts of interests to their patients and failure to do so can result in disciplinary action.
  • A Minnesota law passed in 1992 prohibits direct payments to physicians for use of certain products.

If you are a licensed physician here in Minnesota who has encountered any sort of legal issues relating to your financial relationships or simply has questions, consider speaking with a licensed professional as soon as possible.  

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