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

Legislative and Regulatory Updates

ACS Meets with GAO About Telehealth During the COVID-19 Pandemic

ACS Fellows with expertise in telehealth coverage, reimbursement and implementation met with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) February 9 to discuss telehealth use and outcomes during the ongoing public health emergency. As mandated by Congress, the GAO must complete a study on actions taken by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during the COVID-19 pandemic to expand telehealth coverage for Medicare, Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program beneficiaries. The GAO solicited input from the ACS regarding the effects of Medicare telehealth expansion on procedure-based specialties during the PHE for inclusion in its study.

Stephen M. Sentovich, MD, MBA, FACS, and Christopher K. Senkowski, MD, FACS, provided the GAO with an overview of surgeons' utilization of telehealth services throughout the pandemic. They indicated that telehealth was primarily used for the evaluation and management of surgical patients, particularly to address existing problems. Drs. Sentovich and Senkowski noted that patients were satisfied with telehealth as an alternative to in-person care when, for example, the patient was located far away from their surgeon's practice and was able to avoid travel to the practice for a simple visit to review imaging, complete a final check-up at the end of the 90-day global period or for other reasons. Telehealth also allows patients to include their families in medical discussions, which has been valuable to patients as no-visitor policies are enforced during the pandemic.

However, Drs. Sentovich and Senkowski expressed that a physical link to the surgical patient must always be maintained, and that while telehealth can add value in surgical practice, it should never be a replacement for in-person care. They stated that a hybrid approach that incorporates both face-to-face and telehealth services may increase efficiencies in the treatment of surgical patients and encouraged the GAO to work with HHS and Congress to identify areas where improvements can be made in the provision of telehealth to ensure that such services are still available to patients who still need them even when the pandemic is over.

For more information about telehealth coverage and reimbursement during the PHE, visit the ACS COVID-19 Telehealth Resource Center.

ACS Joins Stakeholder Letters on Medicare Sequestration

The ACS signed on to two letters to House and Senate leadership requesting that the Medicare Sequester COVID Moratorium Act (H.R. 315) be included in upcoming must-pass COVID-19 relief legislation. The legislation would extend the delay of sequestration-related payment cuts, required by the Budget Control Act of 2011, through the end of the declared COVID-19 public health emergency. Congress had previously delayed the 2 percent spending cut until March 21 as part of the spending bill enacted in December 2020. Extending the moratorium on sequestration-related cuts is supported by a broad group of physician and health care organizations.

Call to Action

Write your members of Congress today and urge your elected officials to call on House and Senate leadership to include H.R. 315 in the next COVID-19 relief package.

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