ASCRS Web Site
In This Issue
President's Message
Operative Competency Evaluation Committee
Why the Society is developing a case log system for MOC
Nominate journalists for 2011 National Media Awards
Washington Update

Four granted Great Comebacks® Award

Website update
Member News
Smart phone users can now connect with ASCRS through QR codes

ASCRS seeks nominations for 2011 Community Impact Award

Vancouver to host Society's 2011 Annual Meeting, May 14 - 18

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In This Issue
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Annual Meeting Information
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ASCRS Website
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ASCRS Research Foundation
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ASCRS Facebook Page

Washington Update:
Congress acts before November 30 deadline
to halt 23 percent Medicare reimbursement cut

The Advocacy and Health Policy Division of the American College of Surgeons compiled the information in this report for ASCRS News.

Just a day in advance of the November 30 deadline, the House of Representatives passed the Physician Payment and Therapy Relief Act of 2010, which halted the 23 percent reduction in Medicare physician reimbursement scheduled to take effect on December 1. The legislation preserves current Medicare payment levels through the end of 2010. The Senate had approved the bill before the Thanksgiving week recess.

Back in June, for the third time in 2010, a scheduled 21.2 percent reduction in Medicare physician reimbursement took effect. Even though the cut technically took effect on June 1, in anticipation of Congress acting to stop the cut, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) had instructed carriers to refrain from processing claims filed on or after June 1 for the first 10 business days of the month.

In spite of this 10-day hold, Congress failed to act in advance of the expiration of this 10-day grace period and on June 18, because of Congress’s failure to act to stop the cut, CMS began processing Medicare claims for services provided in June at payment rates that reflect the 21.2 percent reduction in the conversion factor.

Rolf Benirschke

U.S. Capitol

On June 18, by unanimous consent, the Senate passed the Preservation of Access to Care for Medicare Beneficiaries and Pension Relief Act of 2010, which retroactively repealed the 21.2 percent cut and replaced it with a temporary 2.2 percent increase in the Medicare conversion factor effective for claims with dates of service between June 1 and November 30, 2010. On June 24, the House concurred in a 417 to 1 vote, and on June 25, the President signed the bill into law.

Surgical Coalition Opposes Medicare Payment Freeze

In a May 11 letter to all U.S. Senators and Representatives, a coalition of 23 surgical organizations, including ACS, wrote to express strong opposition to any measure that would freeze Medicare payments to physicians over the next 5 years. It was originally rumored that one of the Medicare payment policy options under consideration was a 5-year freeze in Medicare payments. The coalition letter stated strong opposition to a freeze in Medicare physician payments and called on Congress to create stability within Medicare through increased Medicare physician reimbursement. The letter also cited a recent survey of the surgical coalition that showed how Medicare payment cuts could impact access to surgical care.

30 Representatives and 21 Senators urge change in Medicare Payments to Ambulatory Surgery Centers (ASCs)

In a June 21 letter, Reps. Ron Klein (D-FL) and Bill Cassidy, MD (R-LA) led a group of 30 representatives in writing to CMS to urge the agency to use its authority to update ambulatory surgery center (ASC) payments with the hospital market basket index rather than the current consumer price index for urban consumers (CPI-U) to avert a freeze in payments. A coalition of 21 senators, led by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Mike Crapo (R-ID), later sent a similar letter asking CMS to modify the ASC payment system with the hospital market basket index rather than CPI-U.

Physician Quality Reporting Initiative (PQRI)

The College continues to provide PQRI educational materials and resources to Fellows and office staff through our website, meetings, and publications. The Bulletin offers helpful Q & A sections to aid Fellows in participation. The PQRI section of our website is consistently updated with new PQRI information, including tip sheets, steps to successful participation, common errors, aggregate PQRI reports, and links to various other educational resources including CMS and AMA. NewsScope’s “PQRI Corner” also features program updates, tips, and registration for CMS National Provider calls on the first Friday of each month. ACS staff continues to represent surgery at all meetings regarding the future of PQRI and possible changes to the program.

In the CY 2011 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Proposed Rule, CMS proposed to expand PQRI in 2011 to include 198 measures, including both individual measures and those that are part of proposed 2011 measures groups. The incentive payment for successful participants is equal to 1.0 percent of the estimated total allowed charges for all covered professional services furnished during the reporting period for 2011.

Electronic Prescribing (E-Prescribing) Incentive Program

ACS staff continues to educate members and their staff about the E-prescribing incentive program through our website, meetings, and publications. In the CY 2011 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Proposed Rule, CMS proposed to extend the incentive program in 2011 with a bonus payment equal to 1.0 percent of the total estimated allowed charges for all covered professional services furnished during the reporting period. ACS staff included responses and comments to the e-prescribing proposals in our CY 2011 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule comment letter.

As with PQRI, following the production of the CY 2010 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Final Rule in November, ACS staff will develop additional materials and resources in order to educate our membership for successful E-prescribing participation in 2011. This will include a Bulletin article, NewsScope stories, and re-vamping the E-prescribing website to include updated 2011 information.