FORT MYERS, Fla.- Local doctor addresses concerns about a new government website that documents all payments made to doctors from medical companies.
Tuesday the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services unveiled a new website called ‘Open Payments.’ The website documented how much money drug makers and medical device companies are giving your doctor. The move was part of the Affordable Healthcare Act. The goal of letting you know who is paying your doctor, is to shed light on potential conflicts of interest
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS published the payments made to individual physicians and teaching hospitals, during the last five months of 2013. According to CMS, 4.4 million payments, totaling $3.5 billion were made in those months. Those payments were categorized by consulting fees, research grants, travel reimbursements and other gifts.
WINK News talked to Dr. Michael Frey with Advanced Pain Management and Spine Specialist in Fort Myers. In the five months posted, Frey received more than $49,000 in payments.
“I’m not a 100% in an agreement with it [the website] because it will create a false misconception with the public,” Dr. Frey said. However, he added, “I think most physicians shouldn’t have anything to hide.”
WINK News Call for Action Reporter Lindsey Sablan asked Dr. Frey if he thought the $49,000 reported for him, seemed like a lot of money.
“Of course it’s a lot of money. I’m not going to sound like a hypocrite. It’s a lot of money, but what is my physician’s time worth?”
Frey explained the majority of the money accrued were payments for lectures. Frey is a published author, and said he has traveled around the world to talk about his work.
“These are paid as a set fee pay rate, there’s no bribes as the public may think.”
As for the dozens of transactions, that were around $20. Most of those were for food and beverage. Frey said often a company will pay for coffee or meals for his entire staff. While he said those transactions are not a conflict of interest, he does feel the new system could be misconstrued.
“People are going to take this basic information and run any direction they want.”
CMS said it could not verify the recipient of about 40 percent of today’s records. They said that should be fixed by 2015. Also, doctors and hospitals have 45 days to dispute the information, so some of the data under dispute was not published.
CMS also noted that financial ties among medical manufacturers and doctors do not necessarily signal wrongdoing or conflicts of interest, it’s just information. Instead, it’s up to you to do your research and ask your doctor questions.
To view the database, click on this link.