American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes

Bulletin Advocacy Brief: December 16

Advocacy in Action

Widespread Grassroots Engagement Plays Key Role in Mitigating Medicare Payment Cuts

Congress recently passed extensive and highly anticipated bipartisan, bicameral spending legislation, including American College of Surgeons (ACS)-supported efforts to protect patients' access to surgical care by averting a more than 9 percent cut to Medicare physician payment. (See following article for more information.)

This legislative victory would not have been possible without ACS member participation, particularly through strong grassroots engagement, on this critical advocacy priority. Most notably, approximately 3,000 surgeons from all 50 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico sent more than 10,000 letters to Capitol Hill calling on lawmakers to stop these harmful cuts. In total, nearly 40,000 actions were taken by surgeon advocates over the last year.

Ultimately, widespread grassroots engagement continues to demonstrate that the field of surgery is stronger when its elements are unified, that key advocates in Congress are listening and advocating on behalf of surgical patients and surgeons, and that taking action via SurgeonsVoice makes an impact. Whether you met with your elected officials, wrote letters, made phone calls, or leveraged your voice through social media, your efforts made a difference and are greatly appreciated. The ACS Division of Advocacy and Health Policy remains committed to amplifying grassroots and other important advocacy-related activity in 2022.

To learn more about ongoing ACS federal priorities, including stopping these and other payment cuts in the future, visit the ACS website or contact ahp@facs.org.

On the Hill

Congress Mitigates Medicare Payment Cuts in December Legislation

Over the last year, the ACS led a strong bipartisan effort urging Congress to avert more than 9 percent in Medicare payment cuts that were set to take effect January 1, 2022. Congressional leaders heard the urgent calls from the ACS, our coalition partners, and surgeons across the country on the devastating impact these cuts would have on a significantly strained health care system, jeopardizing patients' timely access to care.

As December's remaining legislative days waned, Congress passed and President Biden signed into law a bipartisan, bicameral agreement to significantly reduce the 9 percent cut to approximately 2 percent, applied incrementally over 2022. Unfortunately, the legislation "pays for" these protections by increasing the Medicare sequester cut in FY 2030. However, without this last-minute agreement, Congress likely would have adjourned for the year, leaving the disastrous 9 percent cuts in place. Although we would like to see the entire cut eliminated, this new law will save each practicing Fellows thousands of dollars.

The ACS has been clear with Congress—this is only a temporary reprieve and policymakers must consider solutions to the ongoing structural problems with Medicare's broken payment system. We have urged Congress to take active steps toward developing a long-term solution in 2022, and we will continue to advocate for action.

We appreciate the actions members of Congress have taken to demonstrate support for addressing the Medicare payment cuts, including sending sign-on letters to leadership and introducing the Supporting Medicare Providers Act of 2021 (H.R. 6020/S. 3314). Such broad-based congressional support was possible, largely because of the actions taken by ACS Fellows on SurgeonsVoice raising concern about the cuts to their representatives and senators. The ACS will need your engagement again next year as we work toward longer-term reform. The College will continue to engage Congress to ensure reforms that bring stability to the payment system.

For more information, contact Carrie Zlatos, ACS Senior Congressional Lobbyist, at czlatos@facs.org.

House Advances Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act (H.R. 1667) with significant bipartisan support. The ACS-supported legislation, which was sponsored by Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA), would provide funding to research and develop policies to reduce burnout and to improve mental health among health care professionals. Earlier this year, the Senate passed a version led by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA). However, because the House made a few technical modifications to H.R. 1667, the Senate will need to vote on the House-passed version of the legislation. The ACS expects the Senate will advance the legislation when their calendar allows.

For more information, contact Carrie Zlatos, ACS Senior Health Policy Advisor, at czlatos@facs.org.

ACS Submits Feedback to ASPR on Preparedness and Response Systems

The ACS submitted feedback on December 10 to the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) within the Department of Health and Human Services on draft guidelines for regional health care emergency preparedness and response systems. The guidelines, which ASPR was statutorily required to develop, are meant to provide high-level recommendations to regional health care providers and provide a general framework for a regional approach to all hazards planning.

The ACS Committee on Trauma (COT) provided feedback on the draft guidelines based on its expertise as it works to incorporate lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic into a national infrastructure that can better plan and prepare for future public health events. In addition to submitting detailed feedback, the ACS and the American College of Emergency Physicians sent a joint letter to ASPR highlighting overarching themes and considerations as the agency continues to develop the guidelines.

For more information, contact Amelia Suermann, ACS Senior Congressional Lobbyist, at asuermann@facs.org.