American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes

ACS Supports Steps to Shore Up Medicare Payment System

Applauds President’s Commitment to Health Reform


CHICAGO (February 27, 2009): The American College of Surgeons (ACS) supports important steps to address Medicare’s broken physician payment system included in President Obama’s FY 2010 budget proposal that was released yesterday. In addition, the College applauds the overarching goals of President Obama’s health care reform effort to expand access, improve quality, and reduce the growth of spending that were outlined in the President’s budget proposal.

"We look forward to working with the Administration on meaningful reform of the current physician payment system," said Thomas R. Russell, MD, FACS, Executive Director of the American College of Surgeons. While it waits for specific proposals to achieve these goals, the American College of Surgeons believes attention should be paid to initiatives that reward care that improves quality and reduces cost.

"We believe health care reform should encourage and reward physicians and surgeons choosing the optimal treatment, whether it’s surgical care or some other course of action," Dr. Russell added. "If a health system can reduce costs by removing waste and creating efficiencies, then the whole health system benefits."

A key element to succeeding is to establish a system to measure quality of care and outcomes based on evidence-based medicine and standards of care in a timely manner. In the field of cancer care, the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer (CoC) is a pioneer in measuring performance. All hospitals and free-standing cancer treatment facilities approved by the CoC report clinical data through the National Cancer Data Base and receive evidence-based benchmark comparison reports based on accepted standards of care for breast and colorectal cancers. These measures are endorsed by the National Quality Forum.

To provide better "real-time" feedback, the CoC has also developed a new reporting system that could link into the interoperable, nationwide Health Information Technology (HIT) system, which just received significant support from the stimulus bill recently passed by Congress. Called the Rapid Quality Reporting System (RQRS), this prospective electronic reporting system monitors evidence-based performance measures in real-time, alerting providers when standards of care for select cancers are not being met. The College believes RQRS could ultimately play an important part in any new, outcomes-based payment models.

When it comes to funding new systems to measure performance and help set standards of care that are critical to effective health care reform, ACS believes that priority should be given to supporting and expanding existing efforts, such as RQRS.

# # #

About the American College of Surgeons
The American College of Surgeons is a scientific and educational organization of surgeons that was founded in 1913 to raise the standards of surgical practice and improve the quality of care for all surgical patients. The College is dedicated to the ethical and competent practice of surgery. Its achievements have significantly influenced the course of scientific surgery in America and have established it as an important advocate for all surgical patients. The College has more than 79,000 members and is the largest organization of surgeons in the world. For more information, visit


Sally Garneski 

Barb Hemberger