By Carter Cordura
On September 29, 2022, Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 1278 (Nazarian) (Chapter 750, Statutes of 2022) into law. The Medical Board of California (MBC) supported the bill.
AB 1278 is the first California law that requires physicians to disclose the payments they receive to their patients. AB 1278, a Consumer Protection Policy Center-sponsored bill, states that “disclosure of financial conflicts of interest by doctors is a moral obligation not enforced by law.” AB 1278 addresses this and requires physicians and surgeons to provide written or electronic notice of the Open Payments database to patients at the initial office visit. [26:2 CRLR 58] The Open Payments database is a federal tool that tracks payments made by drug and device companies to physicians and teaching hospitals.
At its August 20, 2021, meeting, MBC voted to support the final version of AB 1278. MBC continued to support the bill in its final form despite the removal of annual written disclosures to patients about actual payments or transfers. The Board deliberated over the efficacy of the bill after the removal and whether it was still valuable. Ultimately, MBC upheld its support, noting that the bill will still help bring awareness to the database and the payments by drug and device manufacturers to physicians. MBC believes this helps consumers make more informed choices, in partnership with their physicians, regarding their medical care and treatment.
The California Medical Association (CMA) opposed the previous iteration of the bill and advocated for the removal of the annual written disclosure. CMA supported the initial disclosure but argued that continued disclosure is unduly burdensome for physicians because it requires them to incur annual recordkeeping costs. CMA’s argument was effective, and the annual requirement was no longer present in the legislature’s final version signed by the Governor.