Washington Scene: Comprehensive, Nonstop Efforts Help Impact Change in Washington

STS News, Winter 2021 — Over the past several years, STS member involvement in advocacy has grown considerably. In fact, advocacy participation in nearly every category of grassroots activity has increased by more than 40% since 2018. The Society also is active in a number of coalitions, including the Surgical Care Coalition, of which STS is a founding member.

The result? Increased opportunities for the Society and its members to make a meaningful impact in Washington on behalf of cardiothoracic surgery and its patients. As more members get involved, the specialty earns a bigger seat at the table in Washington, ultimately leading to better outcomes for patients.


STS Surgeon Participation Facilitates Advocacy Wins

In 2021, the Society—thanks to the help of STS members from across the country—made measurable progress on four of the five advocacy priorities established by the Workforce on Health Policy, Reform, and Advocacy. These priorities include:

STS was instrumental in the introduction of the Meaningful Access to Federal Health Plan Claims Data Act of 2021 (H.R. 5394). The bill, introduced by Rep. Larry Bucshon, MD (R-IN) and Kim Schrier, MD (D-WA), guarantees clinician-led clinical data registry access to federal health plan claims data and preserves the authority of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to require coverage with evidence development. The language also was included in the 21st Century Cures Act 2.0 package, recently introduced by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), which is expected to pass next year.

The Society consistently has worked to avoid cuts to Medicare reimbursement for cardiothoracic surgeons. Congress passed legislation in December that will mitigate a nearly 10% cut to Medicare reimbursement for the specialty. Instead, cardiothoracic surgeons will experience a phased reduction in reimbursement over the next 6 months, averaging out to a 2% cut for 2022. This is a critical victory for the specialty and cardiothoracic surgery patients. The goal was to eliminate 100% of the pending cuts; the Society succeeded in reducing the anticipated cuts by 80% and carved a path for future engagement with legislators.

STS, in collaboration with the Surgical Care Coalition, continues to push Congress and CMS for a long-term solution that does not pit physicians against each other and ensures access to care for patients across the country.

Other advocacy victories include:

  • Sustained funding for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
  • Increased funding for the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Preservation of coverage with evidence development
  • 1,000 additional Medicare-supported graduate medical education slots
  • Reversal of payment cuts for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation
  • Tobacco purchasing age raised to 21 years old
  • Reauthorized funding for the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute
  • STS Adult Cardiac Surgery Database quality measures added to the Bundled Payments for Care Improvement Advanced model
  • Improved aortic grafting procedure coding

Launching in 2022: Key Contact Leaders Program

In 2022, the STS Government Relations team plans to launch a new program to help STS members further enhance their relationships with Members of Congress. The Key Contact Leaders Program will recognize top advocates from each state to serve as leaders in cardiothoracic surgery advocacy. Key Contact leaders will have many opportunities to build their skills as advocates and serve as the faces of STS in Washington. They also will serve as mentors for newer advocates and help with recruitment and coordination to ensure participation in advocacy continues to strengthen and expand.

More information about the Key Contact Leaders Program will be available soon. Interested in getting involved in the program? Contact advocacy@sts.org.

Advocate for Your Passions

The Society always is looking for advocates to bring their own interests to the table. Meetings with legislators are not only an opportunity to highlight the advocacy priorities of STS, but also a chance for STS members to share their personal experiences. If you have experienced something that is impacting your practice and believe it needs to see action from Congress, speak up! The Government Relations team can help you investigate issues and effectively discuss potential solutions with legislators.

All STS Members Can Be Advocates

No matter where you are in your career, there is a place for you in advocacy. Congress handles issues that impact every aspect of cardiothoracic surgery and its patients—from graduate medical education to access to care. Because of this wide range of issues, legislators value hearing from as many constituents in the specialty as possible.

STS encourages you to get involved in any way that you can. For more information, visit sts.org/grassroots.

Get Involved Now

STS can help you with scheduling and provide briefing materials.

  • Schedule a phone call with your representatives or members of their health care policy teams to discuss important issues impacting the specialty and patients.
  • Sit down with your lawmakers at their district offices and discuss potential legislative solutions that they can support.
  • Invite your legislators to visit your workplace and show them the value of the services that you and your team provide. Once scrubbed in, it’s impossible to ignore your message.

Contact advocacy@sts.org for more information and assistance.