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

Bulletin Advocacy Brief: July 30

Dr. Ara Feinstein: “We Need Congress to Protect Us”

In a commentary published in the Arizona Republic July 24, Ara Feinstein, MD, MPH, FACS, asserts that another pause in elective procedures could devastate an already struggling health care system, as will the impending Medicare payment cuts as recovery seems further away. Dr. Feinstein is a trauma surgeon and physician executive at Banner Health, Phoenix, where COVID-19 cases have dramatically increased in recent weeks. Dr. Feinstein explains, “We will continue to rise to the challenge of this unprecedented moment, and we will fulfill our oath and our obligation to heal. In turn, we need Congress to protect us.” Read more from Dr. Feinstein on azcentral.com.

Take Action: Tell Congress to Stop the Cuts

The soon-to-be-released Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Medicare Physician Fee Schedule proposed rule for calendar year 2021 ignores both patients and the surgeons who care for them.

These cuts have posed a problem to our patients ever since CMS finalized the proposal in November 2019. Even before COVID-19, they presented a difficult future to surgical patients, but if they go into effect while the country continues to confront the pandemic, Americans will pay an even greater price.  We urge you to make your voice heard by heading to the platform on the Surgical Care Coalition website to write to your representatives about the dangerous consequences this rule will have on America’s surgeons, hospitals and, most importantly, patients. Read more about the rule.

Critical Timing: Ask Your Legislators to Take Action on Funding for MISSION ZERO

The MISSION ZERO Act supports military-civilian trauma care partnerships that allow military trauma care teams and providers to gain exposure to treating critically injured patients and increase readiness for when these units are deployed. We need your help encouraging legislators to take action and fund MISSION ZERO.

This week, the House is set to vote on the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education package, which includes the following language specific to MISSION ZERO: “The Committee [on Appropriations] encourages [the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response] to pursue partnerships between military and civilian trauma care providers to ensure trauma care readiness by integrating military trauma care providers into civilian trauma centers. The Committee requests an update on such efforts in the fiscal year 2022 Congressional Budget Justification."

Although this language is helpful and encourages the Department of Health and Human Services to prioritize these partnerships, funding is needed to make them a reality.

Meanwhile, the Senate continues to hear funding requests, and it is critical that your senators hear from you on the importance of funding civilian-military partnerships. Find a prewritten letter to your senator at SurgeonsVoice.

Learn more about MISSION ZERO. For more information on this effort, contact Hannah Chargin, American College of Surgeons Congressional Lobbyist, at hchargin@facs.org.

ACS Supports Legislation to Extend Due Process Rights to ED Surgeons

Reps. Roger Marshall, MD (R-KS), and Raul Ruiz, MD (D-CA), in May introduced H.R. 6910, the ER Hero and Patient Safety Act, which would ensure due process protections for surgeons serving in emergency departments.

At present, under conditions of participation (CoP) hospitals must provide guidelines for due process rights for physicians, especially for those serving in the ED. To meet the complex organizational challenges associated with EDs, hospitals often contract with physician staffing companies, outsourcing the entire department. Medicare CoP does not explicitly include due process language for physicians employed by a third-party contractor. Therefore, these legal protections do not apply to most ED physicians. This legislation will ensure that due process rights are protected for physicians, including surgeons, employed by a health care institution or a third-party staffing company and contracted to provide emergency medical services at a hospital.

Read the letter of support. For additional information, contact Hannah Chargin, ACS Congressional Lobbyist, at hchargin@facs.org.

If You Have Questions About Telemedicine, HHS Virtual Learning Series May Provide the Answers

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is hosting a 10-week virtual learning series to help accelerate telemedicine implementation for ambulatory health care providers. Components of the series, titled the HHS Telemedicine Hack, include five “office hour” peer-to-peer discussion panels, along with five sessions on key telemedicine topics:

  • Telemedicine: Where Do I Start?
  • Workflows and Documentation
  • Billing and Reimbursement: How to Ensure Compliance (& Get Paid!)
  • Clinical Best Practices and the ART of the Tele-Physical Exam
  • The New Normal: Tips to Make Telemedicine Part of Your Permanent Practice.

Each session will take place noon to 1:00 pm Eastern Time every Wednesday, July 22−September 23. See the HHS Telemedicine Hack brochure to learn more about the curriculum and to register for upcoming sessions. 

Dr. John Calhoon: Surgeons Will Be “Unnecessarily Penalized”

The San Antonio Express-News July 23 published a commentary from John Calhoon, MD, FACS, professor and chair, department of cardiothoracic surgery, University of Texas Health Center at San Antonio Long School of Medicine, in which he explains why vulnerable patients in the U.S. will lose access to high-quality and timely surgical care if Medicare payment cuts take place. Congress needs to prevent the upcoming Medicare payment cuts. Dr. Calhoon notes that the most vulnerable patients in the U.S. will lose access to high-quality and timely surgical care if the reimbursement reductions that are likely to be included in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services proposed rule on Physician Fee Schedule are adopted.

Dr. Calhoon states, “Health care workers will continue to provide care and support to those who need it. In turn, they must not be unnecessarily penalized.” Dr. Calhoon has been on the frontlines since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to fight the virus as San Antonio and cities across Texas experience a surge in cases. Read more from Dr. Calhoon in the San Antonio Express-News.

HHS Extends Public Health Emergency Declaration

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services July 23 formally extended the COVID-19 national public health emergency declaration, which was set to expire on July 25, for another 90 days. The declaration will remain in effect through October 23. This extension will allow for continued implementation of certain waivers and flexibilities issued to assist providers in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as expanded coverage and payment for telehealth, site-neutral payment exceptions and scaled-back  practice limitations for nonphysician health care professionals, among others. 

Contact regulatory@facs.org with questions.

SurgeonsPAC Remains an Essential Advocacy Resource

In addition to contacting Congress to raise awareness about an issue through SurgeonsVoice, it is important to recognize that the American College of Surgeons Professional Association’s Political Action Committee, SurgeonsPAC, remains a vital resource. Raising the funds necessary to elect strong candidates to Congress is critical, particularly in allowing the ACS federal legislative team to develop relationships with lawmakers and advocate for or against various congressional priorities. During this time of crisis having a politically active and engaged membership is vital to the future of surgery.

SurgeonsPAC is poised to make an impact in the 2020 election cycle, but not without your help. The SurgeonsPAC Board of Directors and staff continue to carefully evaluate and contribute to viable congressional races across the country, especially candidates who are health care professionals and who could become the future champions for surgery.

While this remains an uncertain time professionally, personally and financially, operating in Washington, DC, without the necessary tools, such as a strong SurgeonsPAC, is like performing surgery without a scalpel. Many of you participate in the fundraising activities at the annual Advocacy Summit or Clinical Congress and will miss the opportunity to do so this year. If you are able, please consider renewing your SurgeonsPAC membership by making a contribution online via surgeonspac.org. As a reminder, your facs.org username and password are required to log in and contribute. For assistance or questions, contact staff at surgeonspac@facs.org.

Note: Contributions to ACSPA-SurgeonsPAC are not deductible as charitable contributions for federal income tax purposes. Contributions are voluntary, and all members of the ACSPA have the right to refuse to contribute without reprisal. Federal Law prohibits ACSPA-SurgeonsPAC from accepting contributions from foreign nationals. By law, if your contributions are made using a personal check or credit card, ACSPA-SurgeonsPAC may only use your contribution to support candidates in federal elections. All corporate contributions to ACSPA-SurgeonsPAC will be used for educational and administrative fees of ACSPA, and other activities permissible under federal law. Federal law requires ACSPA-SurgeonsPAC to use its best efforts to collect and report the name, mailing address, occupation, and the name of the employer of individuals who contribute over $200 in a calendar year. ACSPA-SurgeonsPAC is a program of the ACSPA which is exempt from federal income tax under section 501(c)(6) of the IRS.