Advocacy Monthly: August 2020

CMS Ignores Recommendations, Slashes Reimbursement for Cardiothoracic Surgeons
Disregarding recommendations from STS and other medical societies, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has released its proposed Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) rule for 2021. The 1,353-page proposed rule, scheduled to go into effect on January 1, slashes Medicare payments by as much as 9% for the specialty, threatening the value of evaluation and management services provided by cardiothoracic surgeons.


The final rule likely will be delayed until December, but policymakers already are working to implement the proposed changes. As a result, STS is expediting submission of its formal comments and working with members of Congress to advocate that the final rule is fair to cardiothoracic surgeons and their patients.

Proposed PFS Presents Valuable Opportunity for Surgeon Advocacy
The Society is an active member of the Surgical Care Coalition and its multifaceted campaign to contest Medicare cuts outlined in the proposed PFS. STS members are strongly encouraged to take action by connecting with their members of Congress and discussing proposed reimbursement cuts, as well as the weakened health care system as a result of COVID-19. STS can help you with scheduling a virtual meeting and providing you with talking points. The time commitment would be less than 30 minutes.


Another course of action for STS members is to write an opinion piece or letter to the editor in your local newspaper. Recently, the San Antonio Express-News published a commentary written by John Calhoon, MD, STS Second Vice President, on why Medicare reimbursement cuts will hurt patients. Contact for more information and assistance.

STS Champions Elimination of Tax Penalties Related to COVID
STS has joined 28 organizations in a letter to House and Senate leaders supporting the Eliminating the Provider Relief Fund Tax Penalties Act of 2020 (H.R. 7819 and S. 4525). This legislation would ensure that health care providers could utilize Provider Relief Funds received from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act without paying additional taxes. The bill, which has been referred to the Senate Committee on Finance and the House Committee on Ways and Means, also would allow assistance-related expenses to be tax-deductible.

Society Backs Increased Funding for AHRQ
The Friends of AHRQ (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality), of which STS is a member, is asking for rapid passage of H.R. 8067, a bill that would increase AHRQ funding by $121 million.

In a letter sent to members of the House of Representatives, the group underscored the need for research related to COVID-19 issues such as:

  • Expanding telehealth and identifying obstacles to access for veterans, the elderly, and communities of lower socioeconomic status
  • Developing mitigation strategies to address racial and ethnic disparities in COVID-19 infection rates
  • Creating protocols that ensure vulnerable groups have timely access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines

New Bundled Payment Model Available for ACSD Participants
STS members who participate in the Adult Cardiac Surgery Database (ACSD) and Bundled Payments for Care Improvement (BPCI) Advanced have an opportunity to increase their Medicare reimbursement. BPCI Advanced is an initiative to support health care providers who invest in practice innovation to improve patient care while reducing expenditures. The Society successfully fought to include quality measures from the ACSD in the model. More information will be available in the Fall issue of STS News.

Advocacy Extras

  • The Society has signed onto a Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids letter that strongly supports the Quit Because of COVID-19 Act that was recently introduced in the Senate. The bill would provide comprehensive tobacco cessation treatment for all Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program enrollees and reduce barriers to accessing the coverage by eliminating cost sharing and prior authorization requirements. Companion legislation was presented in the House earlier this summer.
  • The next webinar in the STS Summer Series, “Surgical Specialties at Risk: How Medicare Cuts to Surgery Will Affect You and Your Patients,” will tackle the important topic of the proposed reductions to Medicare reimbursement. Keith S. Naunheim, MD, will moderate the discussion, which will be broadcast live via Zoom and Facebook on Thursday, September 10 at 6:00 p.m. ET/3:00 p.m. PT.