Society Urges Reversal of Major Payment Cuts
STS signed a letter imploring Congressional leaders to prevent planned Medicare reimbursement cuts of up to 7% for both cardiac and thoracic surgery. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) increased reimbursement for evaluation and management (E/M) office visits beginning in January 2021; however, because there is a set pool of money for Medicare payments, an increase to one type of service (E/M office visits) mandates cuts for other services—in this case, the postoperative visits that are bundled into global surgical payments. The letter encouraged Congress to waive budget neutrality in this situation so that global surgical payment cuts aren’t necessary.
The letter is just one aspect of the Society’s comprehensive strategy to fighting these cuts. STS also is part of the Surgical Coalition, which is mounting a multipronged advocacy campaign.
STS Requests COVID-19 Financial Assistance for Physicians
Cardiothoracic surgical practices may be facing financial hardship due to the postponement or cancelation of elective surgeries during the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, the Society has asked for legislative and regulatory solutions by signing three letters that:
- Endorsed the Immediate Relief for Rural Facilities and Providers Act, which would provide low-rate, deferred-interest loans and one-time stabilization payments to physicians, and called for increased production and distribution of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machines and supplies
- Recommended changes to the Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payment Program such as allowing practices to receive more than one advance payment, extending the timeframe for payments to be paid back, waiving accrued interest, and reducing the amount that must be returned
- Requested one month of revenue for each physician, nurse practitioner, and physician assistant enrolled in Medicare or Medicaid to account for financial losses and non-reimbursable expenses
Specialty Societies Ask for Relief from Administrative Burdens on Physicians
STS has joined several medical organizations in calling for a number of regulatory changes to ease requirements on physicians, hospitals, and practices that are busy navigating issues related to COVID-19. One letter asked CMS to delay the introduction of Merit-Based Incentive Payment System Value Pathways. Another letter urged the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) to adjust billing codes for telehealth services and suspend prior authorization requirements. Finally, a letter to CMS and HHS requested more time for Quality Payment Program data submission, among other issues. Making these changes would allow physicians to focus on the current public health emergency, rather than paperwork.
Emergency Funding Is Needed for 501(c)(6) Nonprofits
The Society and other health care groups have urged Congress to provide emergency financial relief for 501(c)(6) tax-exempt medical and dental trade associations, including STS. The COVID-19 crisis has adversely impacted these nonprofit groups, and without federal financial intervention, many may be forced to cut staff or scale back on services.
Statement Supports Adequate PPE, Whistleblower Protections
STS has signed a statement emphasizing the need for adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care professionals on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. The statement also noted that these workers should not be disciplined or terminated for speaking out about conditions and practices related to the care of COVID-19 patients, including lack of PPE.