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Sunshine Act FAQs

The AMA has compiled answers to frequently asked questions about the Sunshine Act. Access the FAQs below or download a PDF version that is printer-friendly. You can also access a printer-friendly Sunshine Act brochure.

What is being reported?

Payments, transfers of items that have value, and ownership interests.

  • Payments and Transfers of Value: Manufacturers must report payments and "transfers of value" made directly to physicians and teaching hospitals. Manufacturers are required to describe how the recipient received the payment such as cash or cash equivalent, in-kind items or services, or stock, stock option(s), or any other ownership interest, dividend, profit, or other return on investment. In addition, manufacturers must specify the nature of the payment or transfer of value. There are 14 possible categories including, for example, consulting fees, grants, research, honoraria, and charitable contributions. In addition to direct payments, manufacturers must report certain payments and transfers of value that are made indirectly to a physician or that are made to a third party as requested by a physician or designated as being made on behalf of the physician.
  • Ownership Interests: Manufactures as well as GPOs are required to report on ownership interests held by physicians and their immediate family members. The transparency report must include the dollar amount invested, the value, and terms of ownership or investment interest, and any payment provided to physician owner or investor. However, there are certain ownership interests, such as securities which may be purchased on terms generally available to the public and which are listed on a stock exchange in which quotations are published on a daily basis, which are not reportable ownership interests.

What is exempt from reporting?

  • Certified and accredited CME.
  • Buffet meals, snacks, soft drinks, or coffee generally available to all participants of large-scale conference or similar large-scale events.
  • Product samples that are not intended to be sold and are intended for patient use.
  • Educational materials that directly benefit patients or are intended for patient use. CMS narrowly interpreted this exemption. Textbooks and reprints are not excluded under this provision.
  • The loan of a medical device for a short-term trial period, not to exceed 90 days, to permit evaluation of the covered device by the covered recipient.
  • Items or services provided under a contractual warranty, including the replacement of a covered device, where the terms of the warranty are set forth in the purchase or lease agreement for the covered device.
  • A transfer of anything of value to a physician when the physician is a patient and not acting in his or her professional capacity as a physician.
  • Discounts (including rebates).
  • In-kind items used for the provision of charity care.
  • A dividend or other profit distribution from, or ownership or investment interest in, a publicly traded security and mutual fund.
  • In the case of an applicable manufacturer who offers a self-insured plan, payments for the provision of health care to employees under the plan.
  • In the case of a physician who is a licensed non-medical professional, a transfer of anything of value to the physician if the transfer is payment solely for the non-medical professional services of such licensed non-medical professional. For example, payments to a physician who is licensed to practice law and who is retained by a manufacturer to provide legal advice would not be subject to reporting.
  • In the case of a covered recipient who is a physician, a transfer of anything of value to the covered recipient if the transfer is payment solely for the services of the physician with respect to a civil or criminal action or an administrative proceeding.
  • A transfer of anything the value of which is less than $10, unless the aggregate amount transferred to, requested by, or designated on behalf of the covered recipient by the manufacturer during the calendar year exceeds $100, subject to increase each year using the consumer price index.

Who has to report?

  • Manufacturers must submit the reports on payments and transfers of value to CMS on an annual basis.
  • Manufacturers and GPOs must report ownership interests held by physicians and their immediate family members.

Do the reports document unethical, fraudulent, or illegal interactions?

  • Congress did not intend for the Sunshine Act reports to reflect unethical, fraudulent, or illegal interactions.
  • Instead, it was to create transparency.
  • Just as there are rules that require public meetings for public officials, the transparency similarly shines a light on interactions to ensure that these interactions advance the best interest of patients and advance the art and science of medicine.

What type of payment and transfer of value information will manufacturers report?

  • Manufacturers are required to categorize how the recipient received the payment (such as cash or cash equivalent, in-kind items or services, or stock, stock option(s), or any other ownership interest, dividend, profit, or other return on investment).
  • Manufacturers must provide a reason for the payment. There are 14 possible categories including, for example, consulting fees, grants, research, honoraria, and charitable contributions.

What type of ownership interest is reported?

  • Manufacturers as well as GPOs are required to report on interests held by physicians and their immediate family members.
  • The transparency report must include the dollar amount invested, the value, and terms of ownership or investment interest, and any payment provided to physician owner or investor.
  • However, ownership or investment interests in publicly traded security and mutual funds are excluded.

What are the 14 categories manufacturers use in these reports?

The 14 possible categories manufacturers are required to use to describe the nature of payments or transfers of value are:

  • Consulting fees
  • Compensation for services other than consulting
  • Honoraria
  • Gift
  • Entertainment
  • Food
  • Travel
  • Education
  • Research
  • Charitable contribution
  • Royalty or license
  • Current or prospective ownership or investment interest
  • Direct compensation for serving as faculty or as a speaker for a medical education program
  • Grant

How do I find out about what industry is reporting about me?

  • CMS will have a website where you will be able to check a consolidated report at the end of the annual reporting period.
  • However, you should check with any manufacturer from which you have received payment or any item of value to see what information they are tracking and intend to report.
  • If you hold any ownership interests in a manufacturer or GPO, you should also check to ascertain what ownership interest(s) they intend to report. (Ownership or investment interests in publicly traded security and mutual funds are excluded from reporting.)

What do I do if the information reported about me is wrong?

  • Physicians will have at least 45 days once CMS provides access to individual physicians' consolidated industry reports via an online portal to challenge reports. The portal will allow physicians to contact the manufacturer(s)/GPO(s) that submitted inaccurate, misleading, false information in order to resolve disputed submissions.
  • If a physician and manufacturer(s)/GPO(s) cannot resolve the dispute, they are provided an additional 15 days before the report is made public to try to achieve resolution.
  • If resolution is still not reached, the disputed information will be flagged, but the report will be posted on the public webpage CMS develops for all transparency reports.
  • Physicians are also able to seek correction or contest reports for two years after access has been provided to a report with disputed information.
  • Once CMS establishes the online portal, physicians will be urged to sign-up to receive direct notice when the reports are made available to physicians prior to CMS posting on the public website.