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Report: 200,000 Payments From Med Tech and Pharma Companies To Florida Docs, Hospitals

Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services

The federal government has released an initial list of physicians and teaching hospitals across the county that have gotten payments from the medical industry. But federal officials say the data comes with some caveats.  

Payments made to Florida doctors from medical device manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies range from a penny, to a single $1.3 million transaction to a Miami physician. According to the federal data companies made more than 200,000 transactions to Florida doctors and teaching hospitals between August and December of last year. Nationwide, payments topped $3.5 billion to 546,000 physicians and 1,360 teaching hospitals. The price tag  is expected to grow when the government starts doing a yearly analysis. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says the information doesn’t necessarily mean there’s wrongdoing.

“While the data could discourage payments and other transactional value that might have an inappropriate influence on research, education or clinical decision making, they could also help identify relationships that lead to the development of beneficial new technologies or medications," says Deputy Administrator and Director of the Center for Program Integrity Shantanu Agrawal.

About 40 percent of the transactions don't have any identifying information.

Physician groups say the data doesn’t give consumers enough information about what and why doctors are paid, and claim physicians didn’t have enough time to review the data.

In a statement, the American Medical Association President Robert M. Wah outlined his concerns about the accuracy of the federal government's reporting.

"Only 26,000 physicians out of the nearly 550,000 physicians affected by the Sunshine Act were able to register to review their data and seek correction of any inaccuracies. CMS provided a short period of time to review and correct any inaccurate data that was submitted by industry. Several factors unfortunately hindered participation by many of the physicians impacted including a complex, non-user friendly and cumbersome registration process to review data and request corrections of any inaccuracies. Meanwhile, the government website was plagued by repeated shut downs and other issues. Notably, CMS has indicated problems with one-third of the data, which raises significant questions about the accuracy of the data content.  "Patients deserve to have access to accurate information, yet publishing inaccurate data leads to misinterpretations, harms reputations and undermines the trust that patients have in their physicians. It can also discourage research and care delivery improvements that benefit patients."

The federal government says it’s working on making the information easier to break down in the next few weeks. It also plans to release a year-long analysis for the current year next June.

Follow @HatterLynn

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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