Medical device companies doing business in Massachusetts are likely rejoicing, now that the state has enacted weakened regulations softening a hated ban on gifts to healthcare providers. Translated - they can now cover some meals and drinks. Legislators initially passed the gift ban law in 2008 and faced fierce lobbying to reverse the measure ever since.
The Boston Globe reports that the state's Public Health Council approved the revised regulations this week. With an outright ban gone, regulators didn't put a specific dollar limit in place. Essentially, device, pharmaceutical industry and other healthcare sales reps must use their judgment when wining and dining doctors. As the story describes, companies will be able to cover "modest" meals and drinks for physicians, as long as it is part of an informal session to talk about a product. And those meals must be considered "modest" by standards of the market in which the meal is taking place, and also similar to what the provider would pay him or herself.
Iyah Romm, director of policy, health planning and strategic development for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, told the Boston Globe that the standards are similar to those used by the American Medical Association and pharmaceutical trade group PhRMA, among others.
Device, pharmaceutical and other healthcare industry groups had opposed the drastic gift ban as something that grossly harmed their business and would prevent vital treatments and devices from reaching patients. But as the Globe notes, consumer groups remain opposed to softer regulations, saying the change will hike healthcare costs, with all the food and alcohol spending rolled into the final price tag of devices and drugs. Still, as FiercePracticeManagement reported over the summer, all other industry gifts to physicians remain blocked in Massachusetts. What's more, payments higher than $10 to doctors must be reported under the Affordable Care Act.
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