Highlights from the Alliance’s Annual Fly-In

Last week, over 100 physicians from 23 states participated in the Alliance of Specialty Medicine’s annual fly-in. The two-day event was held in Washington, DC and offered participants the opportunity to meet with their Members of Congress to advocate on important legislative matters on behalf of their specialties. These advocacy issues included – repealing the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula, repeal of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), Medical Liability Reform and delaying implementation of the Value-Based Payment Modifier program (VBPM).

The group also heard speeches from Representatives Michael Burgess, MD (R-TX), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Jim Matheson, (D-UT), Tom Price, MD (R-GA) and Senators Rand Paul, MD (R-KY) Pat Roberts (R-KS), and Johnny Isakson (R-GA). In addition, attendees participated in a Q&A panel discussion with Congressional Staff from the House Ways and Means and Energy Commerce Committees.

NASS fly-in attendees included Advocacy Committee members John Finkenberg (Chair-CA), Samy Abdou (CA), Claude Borowsky (MA), Alan Brown (WA), Robert Dimick (TN), and David Wong (CO). Together, the committee members met with over 25 Congressional offices on behalf of NASS and the Alliance.

House Votes Again To Repeal PPACA

In an effort to express their discontent with the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold most of the PPACA, the House of Representatives voted last week to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care law. It was the 33rd time House Republicans have voted to revoke all or parts of the 2010 health care law. The bill, H.R. 6079, passed on a vote of 244-185, with five Democrats joining Republicans in favor of repeal.  The measure however was mostly symbolic, as any attempt to advance this legislation in the Senate, where Democrats hold the majority, is very unlikely.

Republicans will have to win the presidency and gain the Senate majority by the next Congress in order to achieve their goal of repealing the entire law. Republicans contend that the legislation was rammed through Congress and that Congress should adopt a piece meal approach to enacting health care legislation in the future. Congressional Republicans have announced that they remain committed to repealing the PPACA and have indicated that they would do through a legislative process known as reconciliation. This process is a legislative tactic where only 51 votes are needed to pass legislation in the Senate.

President Signs FDA User Fee Bill into Law

Early last week, President Obama signed into law the Food and Drug Administration user fees bill (S. 3187). In general, for FY 2013-2017 the bill reauthorizes the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA) and the Medical Device User Fee Authorization (MDUFA); authorizes new generic drug and biosimilars user fee programs; and, among other things, provides new incentives for the development of antibiotics; adds provisions to address drug shortages; adds a new fee program related to rare pediatric diseases; and adds a requirement for the FDA to issue guidance on the use of the internet and social media to promote FDA regulated medical products.

Senate Committee Holds Third Roundtable to Discuss Physician Reimbursements

Last Thursday, physicians representing major medical groups testified to the Senate Finance Committee that a new Medicare payment system should include features such as value-based compensation, bundled payments, medical homes, and the availability of current data. Under the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula, physicians will face a 27 percent cut if Congress doesn’t act to counter the automatic cuts. Lawmakers have voted each year since 2003 to undo the cuts, making it likely that Congress will pass another short-term fix beginning January 1, 2013.

The roundtable discussion was the third the committee has put together in its attempt to solicit stakeholder input to replace the current SGR payment formula. As reported earlier, previous panels included representatives of private payers and former Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services administrators. Sources inform NASS that the Committee will assemble a summary of their findings and will plan to release a white paper outlining a framework for SGR replacement.

A link to this roundtable can be found here.

House Committee Hearing On Impact of PPACA on Providers

Last Tuesday, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) to examine the extent of federal role of patient care that Republicans on the committee claimed discourages physicians from remaining in the profession. Republican members of the committee also contested that new rules in the current law will make it harder for patients to find doctors.

Richard A. Armstrong, chief operating officer, Docs4PatientCare, a national physician advocacy group, cited electronic health records, accountable care organizations, and the Independent Payment Advisory Board among the provisions in the law that would create bureaucratic and financial burdens for doctors.

Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), of the Subcommittee on Health Care, District of Columbia, Census and the National Archives, also maintained that a doctor shortage was approaching the profession due to implementation of the PPACA.

The only witness in support of PPACA, Ron Pollack, executive director of the consumer group Families USA, argued that passage of the law had been supported by physician groups, including the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, and the Association of American Medical Colleges. In his testimony, Pollack cited consumer-oriented provisions, including closing the Medicare Part D drug loophole and prohibiting insurers from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions as benefits of the law.

A link to the hearing can be found here.