Washington Scene: What the Midterm Election Results Mean for Cardiothoracic Surgery

STS News, Winter 2019 -- The results of the midterm elections this past November in the United States will provide new opportunities and challenges for STS advocacy. Although Congress is now divided, the election was a successful one for cardiothoracic surgery, as 91% of the candidates supported by STS-PAC won their elections.

Republicans expanded their majority in the Senate and Democrats now control the House, with a net gain of 40 seats. 

House Democrats already have signaled that they intend to kick off the new year by addressing important health care issues, including health insurance protections for preexisting conditions and drug pricing. They also are expected to actively wield oversight powers when it comes to the Executive Branch. This may prove useful to STS when, for example, the Society believes a proposed regulation would be too onerous for cardiothoracic surgeons or would threaten patient safety; STS regularly comments on proposed rules and regulations issued by the Administration.

Although Congress is now divided, the election was a successful one for cardiothoracic surgery, as 91% of the candidates supported by STS-PAC won their elections.

Push for Bipartisanship

As many new members of Congress begin their terms, there may be a renewed emphasis on bipartisanship in hopes of passing substantial legislation. STS surgeon leaders and staff in Washington, DC, will work to take advantage of that bipartisan mindset and leverage relationships with those elected officials; the Society’s unique, nonpartisan priorities may strike a chord with them.

In addition, STS will continue to strengthen its relationships with the current co-chairs of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, Reps. Tom Reed (R-NY) and Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), and make sure that the issues important to cardiothoracic surgeons are heard and carefully considered.

Get Involved Today

With health care on the agenda so soon in the new Congress, STS members are strongly encouraged to meet with their representatives early in 2019, especially with freshman members who will be eager to forge relationships with surgeon constituents. If you are interested in connecting with your representatives, sign up as an STS Key Contact at sts.org/advocacy.

Annual Meeting Sessions Highlight STS Advocacy

You’ll have a number of opportunities to learn more about the Society’s advocacy efforts—and how you can help—at the upcoming STS 55th Annual Meeting in San Diego, January 27-29.

On Sunday, January 27, the Key Contacts: Advocates for Cardiothoracic Surgery session will provide you with the tools to become involved. Experienced Key Contacts will share their perspectives from the front lines of STS advocacy, as well as role-play a meeting with a member of Congress—showing how to make things go well and explaining what to do if they don’t. Speakers also will discuss the Society’s advocacy priorities, focusing especially on health care issues that will be facing the new Congress.

The Health Policy Forum on Tuesday, January 29, will delve into the intricacies of the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), which affects Medicare payments for cardiothoracic surgeons. MIPS assesses physicians in four categories—quality, resource use, participation in clinical practice improvement activities, and use of electronic health records. You’ll learn what you are required to report and how you can achieve maximum scores in all four categories. In addition, Alternative Payment Models and bundled payments for coronary artery bypass grafting surgery will be reviewed.

Please stop by the STS booth in the Exhibit Hall (#601), where staff from the Washington, DC, office will be available to discuss the legislative and regulatory issues that most directly impact you and your practice. You also can hear about STS-PAC, the only political action committee that exclusively represents cardiothoracic surgery. Get more details about the Annual Meeting program on page 1, or visit sts.org/annualmeeting.