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

Bulletin Advocacy Brief: July 2

Explainer: Planned Medicare Payment Cuts

Surgical Care CoalitionThe American College of Surgeons (ACS) is one of 12 members of the Surgical Care Coalition, which is dedicated to protecting access to necessary surgical procedures and high-quality care for all patients. The Surgical Care Coalition’s first action is working with Congress to stop planned payment cuts to Medicare that would reduce payments for surgical care in January 2021. These cuts could force surgeons to see fewer Medicare patients, which would lead to reduced access to care for older Americans and lower their quality of life. Introduced before COVID-19, the cuts have always presented a difficult future for both surgeons and their patients but will be devastating when combined with the consequences of the pandemic. Read more about the cuts and their potential impact on both surgeons and patients.

ACS, Surgical Care Coalition Send Letter Asking Congress to Waive Budget Neutrality

The Surgical Care Coalition members and nearly 40 other provider groups recently sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) asking congressional leadership to waive budget neutrality. This action is part of the larger effort to stop the Medicare payment cuts (outlined above) and ensure all patients have timely access to surgical care. The American College of Surgeons (ACS) and the coalition are also working closely with key members of Congress to fix these cuts. Read the letter to Congressional leadership.

ACS Joins Specialty Provider Letter Urging Congress to Prevent Payment Cuts

Finalized policies from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will have a devastating effect on a significant portion of specialty care due to the statutory requirements for budget neutrality under the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule. At a time when many physician practices are struggling to stay afloat because of the COVID-19 pandemic, last week the American College of Surgeons (ACS) joined 52 other health professional organizations in sending a letter to congressional leadership urging them to waive the budget neutrality requirements associated with the finalized evaluation and management (E/M) code proposal slated for implementation January 1, 2021. This much-needed action by Congress, for inclusion in any forthcoming legislative package, would provide a critical reprieve for surgeons facing substantial payment reductions in the coming months.

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

We Need Your Help: Contact Congress Today!

The American College of Surgeons (ACS) will continue to aggressively push Congress to avert the payment cuts, but only strength in numbers from surgeon advocates at-large will help elected officials understand the importance and urgency of this issue. Click HERE to contact Congress to help ensure that lawmakers understand the impact that these drastic cuts will have on physician payment for surgical services provided to Medicare patients. 

ACS Cofounds Patient ID Coalition

As part of its ongoing advocacy efforts to ensure surgeons can accurately identify patients, the ACS joined with the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), the College of Health Information Management Executives (CHIME), the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), Intermountain Healthcare, and the Premier Healthcare Alliance to form the Patient ID Now coalition. The new coalition will work to repeal a 20-year ban that prohibits the Department of Health and Human Services from working with the private sector to develop a nationwide patient identification strategy. Patient ID solutions, such as a Unique Patient Identifier (UPI), would provide surgeons with an accurate and consistent means of linking patients to their health information across the continuum of care.

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

ACS Advocacy in the News: Grassroots and PAC Coordinator On ACS Strategic Response to COVID-19

As the COVID-19 public health emergency continues to affect advocacy and lobbying efforts in Washington, DC, the American College of Surgeons Division of Advocacy and Health Policy (DAHP) continues to develop innovative approaches to effectively communicate with Congress. Campaigns & Elections recently sat down with Austin O’Boyle, ACS DAHP Grassroots and Political Action Committee (ACSPA-SurgeonsPAC) Coordinator, to learn more about how associations are adapting their advocacy and political strategies in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Watch the interview.

ACS Submits Comments to Senate HELP Committee on Future Pandemic Preparedness

U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) released a white paper providing recommendations and requesting feedback on the lessons learned during the COVID-19 public health emergency and ways to better prepare in the future. The American College of Surgeons (ACS) offered comprehensive policy solutions to several of the white paper's recommendations, including: disease surveillance and how best to ensure timely communication using clinical data registries, how to better leverage the support and coordination of agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, the importance of a Regional Medical Operations Center structure, ways to improve state and local capacity to response to public health emergencies. The ACS looks forward to working with Congress to strengthen the nation’s preparedness and response to future pandemics.

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

Physician Compare 60-Day Preview Period Is Now Open

Physicians who participated in the 2018 Quality Payment Program (QPP) can now preview the 2018 QPP performance information that eventually will be publicly reported on their Physician Compare profile pages or in the downloadable database. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will publicly report physicians and group performance on Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) and Qualified Clinical Data Registry (QCDR) measures; Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) for MIPS summary survey measures, MIPS Promoting Interoperability measures and attestations, MIPS Improvement Activities attestations, and performance category and final scores achieved during the 2018 MIPS and QPP performance year.

You can access your MIPS and QPP performance information and view the Physician Compare Preview through August 20 by logging into your account on the QPP website, for additional guidance on how to preview your data review the Physician Compare Preview Period User Guide.

To learn more about the 2018 QPP performance information that is available for preview, download these documents from the Physician Compare Initiative page:

ACS Endorses Mental Health Legislation to Protect Health Care Workers

Last week, Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), John Katko (R-NY), and Frederica Wilson (D-FL) introduced the Coronavirus Health Care Worker Wellness Act, H.R. 7255. This legislation would authorize the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue grants to health care providers to establish or expand programs dedicated to promoting the mental wellness of their workers on the front lines treating patients with COVID-19. The bipartisan legislation would authorize HHS to commission a comprehensive, multi-year study on health care worker mental health and burnout, including an assessment of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. The American College of Surgeons strongly supports this legislation and is committed to providing tools and resources to support surgeons. 

For more information on this legislation, contact Carrie Zlatos, ACS Senior Congressional Lobbyist, at czlatos@facs.org. For more information on ACS resources for assistance and well-being, please visit our website.