A problem with CMS' Open Payments transparency program(go.cms.gov) registration system led CMS to temporarily disable the portal last week. As of Aug. 13, the site remained down and CMS had not shared a date when the Open Payments system would reopen.
Today, CMS spokesperson Tony Salters provided this statement to AAFP News: "After an assessment of the data resulting from a complaint, we discovered that a limited number of physician payment records submitted by at least one manufacturer incorrectly contained information about other physicians. CMS takes physician privacy very seriously, and we have taken the system offline temporarily and will work with the industry to eliminate incorrect payment records."
The Open Payments program, which was created to implement the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, is intended to promote transparency about the financial relationships between the medical industry and physicians and teaching hospitals by making data about those relationships available to the public.
The Open Payments review and dispute process began on July 14 and was scheduled to end on Aug. 27. The process is intended to give physicians and teaching hospitals an opportunity to contest any incorrect data reported about them by applicable manufacturers and group purchasing organizations before CMS publishes the information on Sept. 30.
With the system shut down, some physicians have expressed concern about that timeline.
Salters indicated that CMS is committed to giving physicians and teaching hospitals the full 45-day review and dispute period to address the financial transactions reported about them but offered no specific information about a possible extended deadline.
Salters provided additional background on the incident in question:
- At least one manufacturer submitted erroneous data that combined the real name, real address and real national provider identifier of a physician but with the wrong state medical license information. In this one case, the medical license provided was valid, but belonged to another physician with the same first and last names.
- The error caused the CMS system to combine that data with the data of the physician who actually held that license and resulted in a physician being able to see all payments, including payments for the physician erroneously connected to the medical license.
- CMS is hopeful that the problem is limited to a small number of physicians and is working to fully assess and correct the problem. The Open Payments registration system was taken offline to prevent physicians from seeing information that does not belong to them.
CMS is working with the responsible companies to ensure they correct the problem.
Salters noted that the AAFP and other physician organizations would receive additional information to disseminate to members as it becomes available.
In an Aug. 8 announcement, CMS noted that physicians, teaching hospitals, and authorized representatives are invited to email questions to the agency's Help Desk at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 855-326-8366, Monday through Friday, from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. CDT.
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