Each year STS physician leaders recommend health policy priorities for the year ahead. This agenda represents key issues that STS volunteers and staff will focus on in 2023. STS will also continue to advocate many other issues of importance to the specialty as opportunities present themselves. 

Ensuring the Long-term Viability of Physician Practices

  • Urge Reforms for Medicare Payments: Physicians received a 2% reduction in Medicare reimbursement in 2023 and are slated for an additional 1.25% cut in 2024. STS advocacy helped mitigate these cuts, but they still contributed to Medicare reimbursements lagging 26% behind the rate of inflation growth since 2001. Significant reforms are needed to make Medicare reimbursements predictable and sustainable, including an annual inflation-based adjustment. 
  • Advocate for Effective Medicare Payment Models: Ensure cardiothoracic surgeons can participate in value-based payment models that appropriately measure quality and performance.  
  • Ensure Appropriate Coverage, Reimbursement, and Scope of Practice: Work with Medicare, private payers, and others to ensure that cardiothoracic procedures are covered and reimbursed appropriately. 
  • Make Telehealth Flexibilities Permanent: Collaborate with other stakeholders to retain telehealth flexibilities beyond 2024. 
  • Reduce Administrative Burdens: Reform onerous prior authorization requirements. 

Address the Growing Workforce Shortage   

  • Invest in Training Cardiothoracic Surgeons: Support raising the cap on Medicare-supported residency positions and providing deferred loan repayment for surgeons in training. 
  • End Physician Non-Compete Agreements: Advocate for ending non-compete agreements that create artificial barriers for employed physicians. 
  • Advocate for Broader Health Care Workforce Solutions: Reduce instances where surgical procedures are postponed due to staffing shortages on the surgical team.    

Promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

  • Improve Access and Outcomes: Work with policymakers and outside partners to research and promote racial and socioeconomic equity in access to health care and health care outcomes.   
  • Diversify the Workforce: Invest in programs designed to support under-represented populations to build and diversify the physician and cardiothoracic workforce.   

Maximize Effectiveness of the STS National Database

  • Secure Reasonable Clinician-led Clinical Database Access to Federal Health Plan Claims Data: Access to Medicare data is critical to facilitating longitudinal outcomes-based research that improves health care quality, cost efficiency, and ensures patients access to emerging technologies through processes like Medicare coverage with evidence development.  

Enhance Patient Access to Lung Cancer Screenings and Treatment

  • Maintain Preventative Coverage: Ensure continued coverage of lung cancer screening with no cost-sharing for patients, as recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.    
  • Support Innovative Treatments for Lung Cancer: Remove barriers for patient access to the best possible care, such as limited coverage of molecular testing.