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Blumenthal, Grassley Introduce Bill to Apply Payment Sunshine to Nurse Practitioners, Physician Assistants

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and have introduced legislation to apply the disclosure of drug company and medical device maker payments to nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

“Requiring companies to disclose gifts and payments made to other health care providers – not just doctors – is absolutely essential,” said Blumenthal. “The Provider Patient Sunshine Act will rein in dishonorable behavior by increasing transparency and accountability across the entire healthcare industry. Increased access to information is in the public’s best interest, and this legislation will ensure healthcare consumers receive safe, efficient, and cost-effective practices.”

“There ought to be a complete record for consumer benefit,” Grassley said.  “The goal of sunshine for payments to doctors is to help the public.  It makes sense to apply the sunshine to anyone who prescribes medicine.  The goal of this bill is to continue the transparency that brings accountability.”

The new Provider Payment Sunshine Act would require drug companies and medical device makers to publicly disclose their payments to nurse practitioners and physician assistants for promotional talks, consulting and other interactions.  The disclosures already apply to doctors, dentists, chiropractors, optometrists and podiatrists under the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, co-authored by Grassley and enacted in 2010.  The records that apply to doctors are publicly available in the federal Open Payments database.  The payments to nurse practitioners and physician assistants would be added to the database. 

Nurse practitioners and physician assistants write a significant number of prescriptions in Medicare and nationwide, and they were among the top prescribers for some drugs, including narcotic controlled substances, according to a ProPublica analysis.  Also, a few of them have been criminally charged with taking industry kickbacks.

Since 2013, the Open Payments database created by the Physician Payment Sunshine Act covers 15.71 million published records and $9.92 billion in payments.  Grassley co-authored the legislation after his oversight and news stories uncovered payments from industry to doctors.  Rather than prohibit such payments, which in many cases might benefit patients as in through research, the legislation required disclosure.