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

Bulletin Advocacy Brief: April 22

President Biden Signs Bill Preventing Medicare Sequestration Cuts

President Biden on April 14 signed into law H.R. 1868, which delays the 2 percent sequestration-related Medicare payment cuts through December 31. The House voted 384 to 38 to pass H.R. 1868 on April 13, which had previously passed the Senate on March 25. The cuts were initially scheduled to take effect at the end of last month, but the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has been holding claims given the expected moratorium extension. It is important to note that H.R. 1868 does not prevent additional sequestration payment cuts of 4 percent stemming from PAYGO rules, triggered by the enactment of the American Rescue Plan Act, which would take effect in January 2022. However, the ACS expects that Congress will waive PAYGO using a different legislative vehicle sometime this year, thereby preventing the automatic 4 percent cut.

For more information, contact Amelia Suermann, ACS Congressional Lobbyist, at asuermann@facs.org.

Senate Finance Committee Considers Nominations of CMS Administrator and Deputy Secretary of HHS

The U.S. Senate Finance Committee on April 15 held a hearing to consider the nominations of Chiquita Brooks-LaSure to be Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and Andrea Palm to be Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Ms. Brooks-LaSure previously served as deputy director for policy at the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight within CMS and as director of coverage policy at HHS where she led the agency's implementation of Affordable Care Act coverage and insurance reform policy provisions. Earlier in her career, she worked as Democratic staff for the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee, where she worked on health care policy, including the development of the ACA.

Ms. Palm most recently served as the Secretary-designee for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. During the Obama administration, she served in several positions within HHS, including acting assistant secretary for legislation and working as chief of staff and senior counselor to the secretary. She also previously worked in Congress for Representative Robert Matsui and Senator Hillary Clinton.

Senate Finance Committee members engaged the nominees on a variety of health policy issues, including implementation of the new surprise billing law (No Surprises Act), addressing health care disparities, telehealth, the ACA, drug pricing, and delivery system reform and innovation.

For more information, contact Carrie Zlatos, ACS Senior Congressional Lobbyist, at czlatos@facs.org.

Encourage Congress to Fund the MISSION ZERO Grant Program

MISSION ZERO builds on the recommendations of the 2016 National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine report, "A National Trauma Care System: Integrating Military and Civilian Trauma Systems to Achieve Zero Preventable Deaths After Injury," to create a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services grant program to cover the administrative costs of embedding military trauma professionals in civilian trauma centers. The ACS-supported MISSION ZERO Act was signed into law in 2019 as part of the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation (PAHPAI) Act.

While the ACS continues to encourage Congress to fully fund MISSION ZERO at the authorized amount of $11.5 million as part of the fiscal year 2022 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations package, time is of the essence. Write Congress via SurgeonsVoice and encourage your lawmakers to support full funding for the life-saving MISSION ZERO grant program. To learn more, visit facs.org.

FCC COVID-19 Telehealth Program Funding Application Portal to Open April 29

The Federal Communications Commission next week will begin accepting applications for a second round of funding under a program designed to provide health care organizations with financial assistance to purchase the technologies needed to furnish telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, Congress authorized $249.95 million for Round 2 of the COVID-19 Telehealth Program, building on the $200 million initially allotted to establish the program under last year's Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

The Round 2 application filing window will last seven days, opening at 12:00 pm ET on April 29, and closing at 12:00 pm ET on May 6. A link to the COVID-19 Telehealth Program application form and information on how to apply are available on the FCC website.

Funding for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program is available to the following nonprofit and public eligible health care providers:

  • Post-secondary educational institutions offering health care instruction, teaching hospitals, and medical schools
  • Community health centers or health centers providing health care to migrants
  • Local health departments or agencies
  • Community mental health centers
  • Not-for-profit hospitals
  • Rural health clinics
  • Skilled nursing facilities
  • Consortia of health care providers consisting of one or more entities falling into the first seven categories

For-profit and private entities, including private physician practices, are not eligible for financial support through this program.

Contact Lauren Foe, Senior Associate for Regulatory Affairs, at lfoe@facs.org with telehealth-related questions.

2021 COVID-19 MIPS Relief Now Available

For the 2021 Merit-Based Incentive Payment System performance year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will use its Extreme and Uncontrollable Circumstances policy to allow clinicians, groups and advanced payment models entities to submit an application requesting reweighting of MIPS categories—Quality, Cost, Improvement Activities and Promoting Interoperability—due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. CMS defines extreme and uncontrollable circumstances as "rare events entirely out of your control and the control of the facility in which you practice." Examples of extreme and uncontrollable circumstances include the following:

  • Circumstances that would cause you to be unable to collect information necessary to submit for a MIPS performance category
  • Circumstances that would cause you to be unable to submit information that would be used to score a MIPS performance category for an extended period of time
  • Circumstances that impact your normal processes, affecting your performance on cost measures and other administrative claims measures

Instructions for submitting an EUC application are posted on the Quality Payment Program (QPP) website. The EUC deadline for performance year 2021 is December 31, 2021. To learn more about other COVID-19 flexibilities that CMS has approved for PY 2021, visit the QPP COVID-19 Response website. All additional questions can be directed to QualityDC@facs.org.