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

Legislative and Regulatory Updates

Key Senate Committee Looks to Advance Legislation Supporting Health Professional Mental Health

This week, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions is expected to vote on the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act, S. 610. This bipartisan, bicameral legislation would provide resources to help reduce and prevent mental and behavioral health conditions, suicide and burnout. Additionally, it would increase access to evidence-based treatment for physicians, medical students and other health care professionals, especially those who continue to be overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

S. 610/H.R. 1667 was featured as a congressional ask at the 2021 ACS Leadership & Advocacy Summit, and participants in the virtual advocacy day voiced support for the legislation with their senators and representatives. After our virtual advocacy day, both Senate and House bills gained additional congressional support. The ACS is committed to developing and fostering well-being for surgeons at every stage of their careers. Visit the ACS Surgeon Well-Being website for more information.

Take action and urge your senators and representatives to support the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act (S. 610/H.R. 1667).

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

ACS Urges Federal Infrastructure Efforts to Include Physician Training

The ACS joined more than 50 medical organizations in signing a letter urging President Biden and congressional leadership to include graduate medical education (GME) positions as part of broader efforts around improving the nation's infrastructure. Physicians are a vital part of our health care infrastructure, and it is critical that more are trained in order to meet the needs of the diverse and growing nation, ensure patient access to care and prepare for the next public health crisis.

The physician workforce, much like the population, is aging, with nearly 45 percent of active physicians in the U.S. being age 55 and older. Access issues persist for patients in both rural and urban underserved communities, and it is crucial that we invest in our country's health care infrastructure by helping provide them with the physicians they need and improved access to care. Congress made an initial investment in shoring up the physician workforce by providing 1,000 new Medicare-supported GME positions in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021; however, more is needed to substantially increase the number of physicians. The letter requests that Congress take this opportunity to further invest in the physician workforce and increasing the number of Medicare-supported GME positions by passing the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2021, which would take steps to alleviate the physician shortage by gradually providing 14,000 new Medicare-supported GME positions.

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

CMS Will Reweight the MIPS Cost Performance Category to 0 Percent of 2020 MIPS Final Score

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced that they will be reweighting the Cost performance category under the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) for the 2020 performance period/2022 payment year. CMS reports that the agency cannot reliably calculate scores for Cost owing to multiple discrepancies in the Cost data that arose from the COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, the 15 percent weight that is allotted for Cost in the MIPS final score will be reweighted to 0 percent for the 2020 performance period, which will affect 2022 payment. The 15 percent Cost category weight will be redistributed to one of the other three MIPS performance categories (Quality, Improvement Activities or Promoting Interoperability) for the 2020 performance period, as described in the following table.

MIPS Cost Reweighting Table

*Note, if a MIPS-eligible clinician is scored on fewer than two performance categories (meaning one performance category is weighted at 100 percent, or all performance categories are weighted at 0 percent), they will receive a final score equal to the performance threshold and a neutral MIPS payment adjustment for the 2022 MIPS payment year.

This reweighting will be applied automatically, and therefore does not require any additional action by surgeons because the category relies on administrative claims data. Also note that the reweighting of the Cost performance category applies in addition to the extreme and uncontrollable circumstances policy, so if a surgeon was ineligible for or did not apply for reweighting under the EUC policy, the cost category still will be weighted at 0 percent.

For more information about the Quality Payment Program (QPP) and MIPS, visit the QPP Website.