The bill as written would have required doctors to disclose in writing the names of all drug and device companies they received payments from. The disclosures were to be made during patients' initial office visits and then once a year thereafter, and doctors also would be required to provide a written notice to patients about the Open Payments website.
The California Medical Assn. opposed the bill, and in an email to members in May, the CMA's political action committee sought donations to help kill it. "This bill only adds to the litany of unnecessary burdens that divert physicians away from what they should be doing — providing care to their patients," it said.
Patient advocates have long complained that their efforts to push legislators for meaningful change have been hamstrung by the politically potent doctors group, which has close ties to Gov. Gavin Newsom. A recent proposal to significantly increase medical license fees to beef up enforcement and another to shift the balance of the medical board from a physician majority to a public member majority were modified or cut from a pending Senate bill amid CMA lobbying.
Robert Fellmeth, executive director of the Center for Public Interest Law at the University of San Diego, which sponsored AB 1278, has called the CMA a "pernicious cartel" that consistently fights to starve the medical board of the funds it needs to investigate doctors.
Nazarian said the CMA opposition "was the main driving force" behind his decision to amend the bill so that it no longer requires doctors to tell their patients which companies, if any, are paying them. He said he chose to drop that provision because he feared trying to salvage it would doom the entire bill.
As it heads to a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing Aug. 16, the bill now only requires physicians to notify their patients of the existence of the Open Payments website and to post a notice about it in their offices.
Knecht said she is hopeful, but not optimistic, that the original provisions might be restored at the next step in the legislative process.
"The bad thing is the onus is still on the patient to find out about their doctors," she said. "That's kind of a tragedy."
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