STS Advocacy Monthly: March 2018

STS Champions Efforts to Reduce Lung Cancer Incidence, Track Use of E-Cigarettes
The Society recently expressed its support for two initiatives that would address the burden of lung cancer and smoking:

  • The bipartisan Women and Lung Cancer Research and Preventive Services Act (H.R. 4897/S.2358) would accelerate research into why women are disproportionally affected by lung cancer, as well as develop a national public education campaign on the importance of early detection. STS thanked the bill’s cosponsors for introducing this legislation and welcomed the opportunity to help ensure its successful passage.
  • An American Thoracic Society proposal urged the creation of new ICD-10 CM codes that would capture patient use of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) such as e-cigarettes and vaporizers. Currently, there is no effective way for health care providers to specifically code for patients who use ENDS products. In a letter to the co-chair of a National Center for Health Statistics committee, STS said that the incorporation of the suggested codes would help provide beneficial data for health surveillance and research purposes.

Society Outlines Issues with New Payment Model
The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation recently announced the administration’s first Medicare alternative payment model, Bundled Payments for Care Improvement (BPCI) Advanced. While the Society appreciates the effort to develop a payment model for specialty medicine, it has several concerns with the methodology and nature of the BPCI model. In a letter to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma and Health & Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, STS noted that the quality measures outlined in the model could be improved, more details about the risk-adjustment algorithms are needed, and the timeline may be overly aggressive.

STS Offers Ideas for Lowering Health Care Costs
In response to a request from Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and four others, the Society submitted a strategic plan for improving price transparency and lowering health care costs by combining clinical data with robust quality information, such as that in the STS National Database. STS highlighted the Virginia Cardiac Services Quality Initiative (VCSQI) as an example, noting that the combination of STS Adult Cardiac Surgery Database data and UB-04 financial records in the VCSQI database has led to the creation of numerous evidence-based protocols, which have saved approximately $90 million by reducing postoperative mortality and morbidity in cardiac surgery.

Society Provides Feedback on Transplantation Proposals
STS submitted comments on three proposals from the OPTN/UNOS Thoracic Organ Transplantation Committee. The committee has proposed extending the distribution of donor lungs to 250 nautical miles; STS noted that this radius is reasonable, but recommended increasing the radius to 500 nautical miles to further improve organ allocation. 

Another proposal suggests updating the current Transplant Recipient Follow-up Form. STS supported the changes, particularly because the questions relating to bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome are outdated and incomplete, and data on restrictive allograft syndrome are not currently collected.

The last proposal offers new guidance for evaluating transplant candidates with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and restrictive cardiomyopathy. STS agreed that the proposed guidance is fair and represents a sensible approach to patients with these conditions.

STS Advocacy Contributes to AHRQ Funding Increase
Thanks in part to the Society’s advocacy efforts, the omnibus budget bill that the President signed on Friday, March 23, contained $334 million in discretionary funding for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), an increase of $10 million from fiscal year 2017. Many STS members have spoken to their representatives in Congress about the importance of funding AHRQ. The agency supports research that optimizes care for patients with multiple chronic conditions, provides tools for addressing the opioid crisis, and reduces medical errors that often result in death. STS created a brief video as part of last fall’s Legislative Fly-In to explain more about what AHRQ achieves.

Key Contact Connect: Attend the Summer Legislative Fly-In
Join your colleagues in Washington, DC, for the Society’s next Legislative Fly-In, June 11-12. When surgeons speak, Congress listens. A dinner briefing will be held on Monday, June 11, followed by breakfast and Capitol Hill meetings the next day that will be customized for each participant. To secure your spot, contact Madeleine Stirling. Scholarships are available for four STS members and will cover reasonable travel and meal expenses. Apply online by Monday, April 23, to be considered; award decisions will be made by Monday, April 30.

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

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