Advocacy Monthly: February 2019

February 2019

STS Recognizes Key Contact of the Year
At the Society’s recent Annual Meeting in San Diego, Rob Headrick, MD, MBA was presented with the STS Key Contact of the Year Award in recognition of his extraordinary efforts advocating for the specialty.

Alan M. Speir, MD, Chair of the STS-PAC Board of Advisors (left) and 2018-2019 STS President Keith S. Naunheim, MD (right) presented Dr. Headrick with the Key Contact of the Year award at the STS-PAC Reception.

Dr. Headrick, who is Chief of Thoracic Surgery at CHI Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga, Tenn., met with nine different members of Congress during the STS Legislative Fly-In last summer, including Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN). He then took his advocacy a step further by urging his hometown newspaper, the Chattanooga Times Free Press, to write a story on the Women and Lung Cancer Research and Preventive Services Act. After the story was published, Rep. Fleischmann became a cosponsor of the legislation.

You can join Dr. Headrick and other STS members in grassroots advocacy efforts by speaking with your representatives over the phone, visiting their district offices, and/or providing a tour of your facility. STS can help prepare you for those meetings. For more information, email Madeleine Stirling, Government Relations Coordinator, with your home address and what type of meeting you’d like to schedule.

CMS Prepares to Release Draft TAVR NCD
Within the next month (by March 27), the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will release a draft National Coverage Determination (NCD) for transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) that updates volume requirements and other existing specifications for reimbursement of the procedure. As soon as the draft is released, a 30-day public comment period will begin. The original consideration, proceedings from a Medicare Evidence Development and Coverage Advisory Committee meeting last July, and public comments related to the TAVR reconsideration are available online. As part of the original NCD, there was a requirement involving participation in a prospective, national, audited registry such as the STS/ACC TVT Registry. Recently, Joseph E. Bavaria, MD and other TAVR experts participated in a roundtable discussion on the value of the TVT Registry for quality improvement initiatives, outcomes research, and device surveillance. View the discussion as a video on the STS YouTube Channel or listen via podcast on the Surgical Hot Topics podcast channel.

STS Endorses Letters on Gun Violence Prevention, Surprise Billing, Data Transfers, and More
The Society has joined dozens of national medical societies, public health groups, and research organizations in sending letters to Congress and government agencies urging action on the following issues:

  • Gun Violence Prevention—Congressional appropriators were asked to designate $50 million in funding for research on gun violence prevention. The letter noted that research is needed on many important public health issues, including the best methods to prevent unintended firearm injuries and fatalities among women and children, firearm-related suicides, and shootings at schools or other public places.
  • Surprise Billing—Legislators were urged to address “surprise billing,” a practice where patients receive unanticipated medical bills due to a lack of information regarding which physicians are in-network with their insurance, as well as limited in-network options when receiving emergency medical care. The letter asked Congress to pass legislation limiting patient responsibility, increasing insurer accountability, and requiring greater transparency.
  • Data Transfers—The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) was encouraged to clarify rules under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regarding data transfers to clinical data registries. Electronic health record vendors have denied data transfers to clinical data registries based on the false premise that the transfers violate HIPAA; OCR was asked to help prevent this information blocking.
  • AHRQ Funding—Congressional appropriators were asked for $460 million in 2020 funding for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). This funding would help AHRQ rebuild and expand its research and training portfolio to better address pressing health care challenges.
  • Loan Repayments—Lawmakers were urged to reauthorize the Pediatric Subspecialty Loan Repayment Program, which provides physicians with financial incentives to choose careers in pediatric surgery and other subspecialties. Reauthorizing this program would help curb a critical workforce shortage in this area; fewer medical students have been pursuing careers in pediatric subspecialties partially due to the additional loans needed for training beyond residency.

Questions? Want to get involved in advocacy?
Contact the STS Government Relations office via email or at 202-787-1230.

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