CBO: OCO FUNDING NOT VIABLE AS SGR PAYFOR: A blog statement released earlier this month by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), addresses the question of “whether potential reductions in spending for overseas capitol webcontingency operations (OCO), such as U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, can be considered as offsets to reductions in taxes or additional spending for Medicare or other programs.” The short answer, according to CBO, is not really. The OCO funding has consistently been mentioned as a potential offset to pay for the cost of repealing and replacing the sustainable growth rate (SGR), and while many politicians, both Democrats and Republicans agree that using OCO funding as an offset would be budget gimmickry, the real question is whether or not Congress has the will to pass a bill using these offsets. Most Republicans will argue against using it (minus a few Senate Republicans), while Democrats tend to be in favor. And this is the current political stalemate over passing comprehensive SGR legislation: identifying the payfors. Medical societies, like NASS, have been pivotal in working with Congress to create the appropriate policy for SGR reform, now it’s up to Congress to do its part and to create the offsets.

NASS and the Alliance of Specialty Medicine submitted a letter of support for the recently introduced H.R. 4015/S.2000, the SGR Repeal and Medicare Provider Payment Modernization Act of 2014. Within the letter, the Alliance urges Congress to continue the momentum they have built thus far and pass the bi-partisan, bi-cameral SGR bill currently before them. In addition, NASS will be ramping up its grassroots efforts to solicit support from members to urge their local representatives to bring this issue up with Congressional leaders so action can be taken this year. NASS will provide more information on its grassroots action plan in the coming days and continues to work with its partners in the medical community on this important issue.

ICYMI – “FIXING THE ‘DOC FIX’” – The Wall Street Journal :  This week, the Wall Street Journal editorial board encouraged Congress to quickly take up  SGR legislation currently before Congress and pass it before another patch will be needed to prevent unnecessary cuts to physician’s Medicare reimbursements. To read this article, click here.

SENATORS WARN CMS OVER ICD-10 IMPLEMENTATION: In a letter to the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator, Marilyn Tavenner and US Senators expressed their concern over front-end testing of the ICD-10 billing program starting this March. The four Senators, who are also former practicing physicians, said that implementation puts at risk the hundreds of millions of dollars of payments that flows through Medicare and Medicaid as well as provided a series of questions for CMS to respond to. A copy of the letter can be found here.

HOUSE MEMBERS SEND LETTER TO HHS ON RAC PROGRAM: Reps. Sam Graves (R-MO), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Scott Perry (R-PA) and 109 other House members sent a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius complaining that the Medicare Recovery Audit Contractor (RAC) program lacks sufficient oversight, thus resulting in increased administrative burdens for hospitals that have to defend legitimate claims that are denied. They said that CMS should implement reforms so that auditors are charged with identifying real claim coding and documentation errors. To read this letter, click here.