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

Bulletin Advocacy Brief: September 24

Lawmakers Urge Congressional Action to Prevent Pending Medicare Payment Cuts

Last week, the American College of Surgeons led a letter, signed by 22 organizations representing surgeons across the U.S., to all members of the U.S. House of Representatives asking Congress to take immediate action in must-pass legislation this year to prevent the significant cuts to Medicare payment scheduled to be implemented on January 1, 2021. These cuts, which were finalized in the calendar year 2020 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (MPFS) and affirmed in the CY 2021 proposed rule, will have a devasting effect on a significant portion of specialty care.

Recognizing the need for a legislative solution, Reps. Ami Bera, MD (D-CA); Larry Bucshon, MD, FACS (R-IN); Abby Finkenauer (D-IA); George Holding (R-NC); Brendan Boyle (D-PA); Brad Wenstrup, DPM (R-OH); Roger Marshall, MD, (R-KS); and Raul Ruiz, MD, (D-CA), are leading a sign-on letter to Congressional leadership urging immediate action to prevent these pending cuts.

Take action on SurgeonsVoice and ask your representative to sign on to this important letter.

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

Meet with Your Legislators at Home During the October District Work Period

Working to prevent steep cuts to Medicare physician payment remains a top priority for the ACS. While grassroots efforts are ongoing, it is imperative that Fellows and Resident Members of the College understand the important role that surgeon advocates play to help raise the profile of this issue. Congress is listening and together we are making an impact, but we still need your help.

The October district work period is a great time to meet with your members of Congress at home to discuss this critical advocacy priority. Requesting a meeting is easy—use the SurgeonsVoice online scheduling tool to submit your request and staff will contact you for more information. Once your meeting is confirmed, review Advocacy at Home resources and tips for successful meetings.

To learn more, contact ACS DAHP staff at ahp@facs.org.

New Survey: CMS Cuts Will Harm Patients by Reducing Access to Surgical Care

A new survey of more than 1,000 surgeons across the country shows proposed Medicare payment cuts could result in nearly one-in-three surgeons reducing their Medicare patient intake, worsening this vulnerable population's access to surgical care.

Nearly every surgeon will have to evaluate numerous difficult decisions if the federal government implements this rule. Surgeons that don't plan to alter their Medicare patient intake will face other tough choices, such as reducing the amount of time spent with each patient, hiring fewer nurses and administrative staff, or stopping investments in new surgical technology.

The cuts, proposed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for calendar year 2021, will reduce surgeon payments by up to nine percent for some specialties. They are set to take effect on January 1, 2021.

"These CMS cuts will be devastating to patients across the country, and this survey illustrates the tough choices that all surgeons will be forced to make," said Valerie Rusch, MD, FACS, President of the American College of Surgeons. "In order to ensure Medicare patients continue to have the best access to the best care – when they need it and where they need it—Congress needs to stop these cuts from taking effect."

The survey, conducted by the ACS, a founding member of the Surgical Care Coalition, revealed that the cuts will force surgeons to take any number of actions that will have a negative impact on their patients. One in five surgeons say they may need to stop performing certain procedures, including procedures that are especially complex or risky. This disruption in surgical care will come after patients have already faced delayed care due to COVID-19, which has made patients delay some surgical procedures. A previous survey by the Surgical Care Coalition found one-in-three private practice surgeons are already considering shutting down their practices due to the impacts of the pandemic, underscoring that this is not the time to add further uncertainty and difficulty to an already challenged healthcare system.

"The financial impact of these cuts on surgical practices will be felt by more than just patients," L. Scott Levin, MD, FACS, Immediate Past President of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand and Vice Chair of the American College of Surgeons Board of Regents said. "Forty percent of surgeons say the Medicare cuts will result in either hiring fewer staff, hiring fewer nurses, cutting existing staff, or cutting existing nurses. The cuts will directly exacerbate the job losses seen in the medical community since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal of all surgeons is to provide the highest standard of patient care, and these cuts will negatively impact the compassionate care surgeons and their staff want to provide to every patient."

Surgeons from Netflix’s Lenox Hill Speak Out

This morning, Dr. Boockvar and Dr. Langer from Netflix’s hit docuseries “Lenox Hill” spoke on six radio stations across America about the threat posed by the pending cuts to Medicare payments implemented by CMS.

These surgeons fought on the frontlines against the COVID-19 outbreak in New York City and have seen firsthand the health and financial difficulties facing surgeons and patients right now. For CMS to propose cutting Medicare payments by up to 9% in the middle of all this is “shocking,” according to Drs. Boockvar and Langer.

Drs. Boockvar and Langer spoke to audiences with WTRV Grand Rapids, WPHM Detroit, KYW Philadelphia, North Carolina News Network, KRLD Dallas, and USA Business Radio to tell the story of surgeons who are helping us face this crisis while preparing for massive cuts to the livelihood.

Listen to their feature

ACS and Surgical Care Coalition Launches Week of Action to Stop Medicare Cuts

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has proposed a rule that will devastate surgeons across America by reducing payments for nearly all surgical specialties. Starting January 1, 2021, the proposed CMS rule will slash Medicare payments to surgeons by up to 9%, jeopardizing patient access to surgical care in the middle of a pandemic.

To stop these cuts and preserve care for patients, Congress needs to act.

That’s why the American College of Surgeons, in collaboration with the Surgical Care Coalition, is launching its first ever “Week of Action” today to encourage you to raise your voice and tell Congress to stop the cuts.

Read the press release.

These cuts would have been damaging before COVID-19, but amid the pandemic these cuts are reckless to impose on an already disrupted health care system.

The Week of Action will include a special webinar, “Medicare Payment Cuts to Surgical Specialties: How Surgeons Will Be Hit and Patients Will Be Harmed by Pending Cuts.” Sign up here.

We look forward to taking this fight to Congress with your support! Tell your colleagues, friends, and patients to spread the word before it’s too late to act!