On August 15, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that the Open Payments system was back online after having been taken down for 12 days. The suspension was prompted by a physician’s complaint that the information reported under his name had been intermingled with data for another physician with the same name. An investigation into the initial complaint found many such errors. 

The Open Payments system was created by CMS to allow payments to physicians and teaching hospitals to be reported as required under the Physician Payments Sunshine Act. The Sunshine Act, part of the Affordable Care Act, requires that manufacturers of drugs, devices and medical supplies report all payments or other items of value given to physicians and teaching hospitals.

Due to the suspension, CMS has extended the time for physicians and teaching hospitals to register and review their records for accuracy, from August 27 to September 8. Payment data believed to be inaccurate can be disputed. The database, which includes data through December 31, 2013, will be made available to the public online on September 30.

After investigating the complaint of intermingled data, CMS removed one-third of all payment data that had been entered into the system because of similar problems. The removed data, once resubmitted and verified, will be released to the public in June 2015. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who co-authored the Sunshine Act, expressed disappointment in the incomplete release, saying, “Incomplete information won’t give the public a full picture of payment data.”

Due to the inaccuracies and other reported problems with the Open Payments system, many state medical groups and industry associations, including the American Medical Association, have asked CMS to delay the public availability of the data from September 30 to March 31, 2015. Any such delay appears unlikely.