ASPS Goes to Washington in First Virtual Fly-In
A powerful and effective tool in the ASPS advocacy arsenal is the Society's biennial Regional Fly-Ins, which provide an opportunity for members to connect with lawmakers and advocate on key issues impacting plastic surgery practice. Facing the challenge of hosting this important event in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, ASPS was undeterred and pivoted to a Virtual Fly-In format for the first time ever.
Last week, 24 physicians – including 3 residents – representing 14 states attended the Northeast & Midwest Fly-In. Attendees conducted 32 meetings with members of Congress and their staff to discuss four of the Society's federal priorities: pandemic relief; a fair solution to stop unexpected balance billing; Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) cuts; and the Ensuring Lasting Smiles Act (ELSA).
Setting the stage
Representative Collin Peterson (D-MN-07), primary House sponsor ELSA, of the kicked off the event with an update on the advancement of the bill and provided attendees advice on how to discuss some of the more controversial aspects of the legislation, such as its cost, in their meetings. The Congressman also provided insight on the status of the fourth COVID-19 relief package and Democratic priorities in the bill.
Throughout the day, some ASPS members also met with members of Congress, including Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), and Representative Troy Balderson (R-OH-12).
From elective surgeries and services being cancelled to the added cost of supplies, staffing and procedures to help curb the spread of COVID-19, the pandemic has had a significant impact on plastic surgery practices nationwide.
In Congressional meetings, ASPS members provided personal accounts in order to illustrate the impact of COVID-19 on practitioners, patients and staff. Physicians also asked lawmakers to include in the next COVID relief package: additional relief for physicians and medical practices through financial support and greater flexibility in using financial supports that have already been created, like the PPP; medical liability protections; investments in physician workforce; and reliable access to PPE and testing.
ASPS members stressed to lawmakers that when insurers create products with narrow, inadequate, and non-transparent provider networks, physicians are forced to make tremendous sacrifices during the public health emergency, which ultimately threatens both the viability of their medical practice and the well-being of their patients.
In Congressional meetings, members urged lawmakers to ensure that any legislative solution includes an accessible independent dispute resolution (IDR) system and payment criteria that do not tie physician reimbursement to the median in-network rate.
Medicare Proposed Fee Schedule (PFS) Cuts
A top advocacy priority for ASPS since early August, physicians capitalized on the Fly-In as an opportunity to connect directly with lawmakers and express concerns with a CMS proposed rule's recommended cuts to 2021 Medicare E/M payments for plastic surgery of 7 percent. Physicians urged members of Congress to waive the budget neutrality requirements for the Medicare PFS, implement positive payment updates for 2021 and 2022, and direct CMS to apply the 2021 increases in values for office and outpatient evaluation and management (E/M) services to the E/M component of 10- and 90-day global codes.
Physicians also urged their Congressional Representatives to sign on to a bi-partisan letter to HHS and CMS requesting that the agencies engage with stakeholders in establishing fair and equitable payment solutions that address Medicare payment cuts, while at the same time moving forward with policies to increase payments to primary care and other office-based specialties. The letter, which was sent this week, calls on HHS and CMS to take immediate actions to delay or mitigate the proposed cuts, while allowing the scheduled increases to go into effect.
Ensuring Lasting Smiles Act
As ASPS's White Hat Issue, ELSA was a key federal policy priority for the Northeast & Midwest Fly-In and the initial focus of every congressional meeting. ELSA was a timely topic, as the House Energy and Commerce Committee favorably reported out the bipartisan legislation on September 9 for consideration by the full House of Representatives.
ASPS members asked lawmakers to cosponsor and advance the bill to ensure children have adequate insurance coverage to treat congenital or birth abnormalities.
The event concluded with a PlastyPAC Virtual Happy Hour with Representative Andy Harris, MD (R-MD-01) and 2020 PAC members who participated in the Fly-In. Dr. Harris talked at length about preventing federal proposals that expand non-physician scope of practice from moving forward in order to avoid setting a dangerous precedent encouraging state legislatures to follow suit. He also discussed his ongoing work on behalf of the physician community regarding balance billing negotiations.
The ASPS Advocacy Summit will return in 2021 and occur biennially, alternating with the more streamlined Regional Fly-Ins. The 2021 Summit will occur May 24-26 at the Washington Court Hotel, in Washington, D.C. Watch ASPS emails and notifications for updates on registration and be sure to join us in advocating on behalf of your practice.