Transparency and the health-care reform bill
Merrill Goozner points out another little-noticed provision in the bill: "Drug and device companies will soon have to report payments to physicians in a national database, thanks to a little noted section of the health care reform bill called the Physician Payments Sunshine Act."
There were a lot of complaints about the transparency of the health-care reform process. I think most of those complaints were wrong: It's hard to identify another debate that stretched for this long, that featured this many legislative proposals and CBO analyses and interviews and op-eds and think-tank summaries and televised mark-ups, all of which were available to download on the Internet. There has simply never been a legislative debate that offered everyday Americans so much opportunity to read the primary documents and their explanations and estimations.
What got lost in this, however, is how much transparency the bill is going to bring to the health-care sector. It's not that every doctor visit will be televised, or every meeting of insurance executives streamed over the Internet. But hospitals will have to post prices. Insurance products will be presented with standardized information, consumer ratings and quality measures. The payments physicians take from drug and device companies will be in a public database. There will be independent funding for research on the relative effectiveness of different treatments. Some of these changes are small and some are big, but put together, the system is going to become a lot more visible in the coming years.
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