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

Bulletin Advocacy Brief: December 17

Companion Legislation to Prevent Medicare Payment Cuts from Taking Effect Introduced in U.S. Senate

U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Tom Cotton (R-AR), and Susan Collins (R-ME) on December 10 introduced the Holding Providers Harmless from Medicare Cuts During COVID-19 Act of 2020 (S.5007) in the U.S. Senate. A version of the bill (H.R. 8702) was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year. The legislation would provide a critical lifeline for two years to specialties facing drastic Medicare payment cuts on January 1, 2021.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services calendar year 2021 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule final rule affirmed new policy changes that are detrimental to surgeons and surgical patients. Starting in the new year, CMS plans to increase the payment levels for stand-alone office and outpatient E/M codes, which will result in payment cuts to specialty medicine due to statutory requirements for budget neutrality under the MPFS. H.R. 8702/S. 5007 would provide a payment adjustment to surgeons and other medical specialties, ensuring surgeons will not see payment cuts next year.

Visit SurgeonsVoice to take action to urge your Member of Congress to cosponsor H.R. 8702/S. 5007!

For more information on legislative action related to the Medicare payment cuts, contact Carrie Zlatos, ACS Senior Congressional Lobbyist, at czlatos@facs.org.

Half of the U.S. Senate Urges Congressional Leadership to Prevent Medicare Payment Cuts

On December 4, U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Steve Daines (R-MT), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and John Boozman (R-AR) led a bipartisan coalition of 50 U.S. Senators in sending a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) in support of addressing the upcoming Medicare payment cuts in the end-of-year legislative negotiations. With the government currently funded through December 18, Congress will need to pass legislation to prevent a government shutdown. The government funding bill and potential COVID-19 relief are likely to be the only moving legislative vehicles before the end of the year. If Congress acts to prevent the cuts before January 1, the legislative fix will need to be included in such must-pass legislation.

For more information on legislative action related to the Medicare payment cuts, contact Carrie Zlatos, ACS Senior Congressional Lobbyist, at czlatos@facs.org.

CMS Clarification: 2020 MIPS Extreme and Uncontrollable Circumstances Exception Application Deadline February Extension Only for COVID-19

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced an extension of the submission deadline for 2020 Extreme and Uncontrollable Circumstances applications to February 1, 2021. To clarify, this extension is only available to those submitting exception applications for COVID-19 related hardships. If you are concerned that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted your performance data for the 2020 Merit-based Incentive Payment System performance period, you have an additional month to submit an exception application. If you plan to submit an Extreme and Uncontrollable Circumstances Exception application for another hardship besides COVID-19 (for example, a natural disaster), you are still required to submit your application by December 31, 2020.

By submitting an Extreme and Uncontrollable Circumstances application and citing COVID-19 as the reason for your application, you are eligible to receive reweighting of one or more MIPS performance categories—Quality, Improvement Activities, Cost, Promoting Interoperability—to 0 percent of your overall MIPS score. However, note that data submission in any of the four performance categories will override any re-weightings approved through this application, on a category-by-category basis, which means you will be scored on those categories. APM entities also can apply for the Extreme and Uncontrollable Circumstances exception for 2020, but they must be reweighted in all categories. Since these MIPS data and these hardship applications can be submitted at both the individual and group level, it is important to check with your group practice to see what actions it plans to take.

To submit an Extreme and Uncontrollable Circumstances application, sign in to qpp.cms.gov with your HARP account information, select "Exception Applications" on the left-hand navigation, select "Add New Exception," then select "Extreme and Uncontrollable Circumstances Exception." You will be notified by e-mail if your application was approved or denied. If approved, your eligibility will be added to your profile on the QPP Participation Status Tool. Step-by-step directions on how to submit an application also can be found on the ACS website.

Visit the Extreme and Uncontrollable Circumstances Exception QPP webpages for more information and links to the application. CMS also offers an Exceptions Application Fact Sheet that provides more information about these exceptions.

SurgeonsPAC-Sponsored VIP Teleconference Series Continues in 2021

In January 2021, SurgeonsPAC will continue to sponsor a VIP teleconference series. All eligible ACS members are encouraged to join next year's kick-off teleconference with urologist and GOP Doctors Caucus member Rep. Greg Murphy, MD, FACS (NC-03). To accommodate your busy schedules, this timely preview of the 117th Congress will take place 6:30–7:15 pm January 13.

While a contribution to SurgeonsPAC is not required to join, having a politically active and engaged membership is essential to building relationships with congressional advocates like Dr. Murphy. Consider attending and making a 2021 contribution* to SurgeonsPAC. Contributing is easy, and additional details are available below.

To contribute online, log in to www.surgeonspac.org using your facs.org username and password. For assistance determining your ACS username and password, contact ms@facs.org.

To contribute via your mobile device, text ACSPA to 41444.

*Note: Contributions to ACSPA-SurgeonsPAC are not deductible as charitable contributions for federal income tax purposes. Contributions are voluntary, and all members of ACSPA have the right to refuse to contribute without reprisal. Federal law prohibits ACSPA-SurgeonsPAC from accepting contributions from foreign nations. By law, if your contributions are made using a personal check or credit card, ACSPA-SurgeonsPAC may use your contribution only 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 whose contributions exceed $200 in a calendar year. ACSPA-SurgeonsPAC is a program of the ACSPA, which is exempt from federal income tax under section 501c(6) of the Internal Revenue Code.