January 10, 2014

Lead Story:
Lawmakers Return for Second Session of 113th Congress
This week, lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill to convene the second session of the 113th Congress. January priorities include completing work on an omnibus appropriations package based on the two-year budget deal passed in December and preliminary negotiations to raise the debt ceiling prior to the pending February 7 deadline. Learn more about the AAO-HNS' legislative priorities in 2014!

Action Requested:
State Legislatures are Convening
It is the first week that state legislatures are in session, and there are already bills introduced to expand the scope of practice for audiologists and legislation regarding hearing aid dispensing. With 30 states convening by the end of the month, more of this type of legislation will follow. Is someone tracking legislation in your state? Email the Government Affairs team at govtaffairs@entnet.org to find out how you can help the specialty in your state today!

Start 2014 Off Right, Donate to ENT PAC!
This year, Congress will address several critical health-related issues, including: audiology-related scope of practice issues, protection of funding for graduate medical education, and continued work to permanently repeal the flawed Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula. Help ensure your PAC is well-equipped to support pro-otolaryngology incumbents and/or viable candidates by making your 2014 investment today. Send your personal check (payable to "ENT PAC") to 1650 Diagonal Road, Alexandria, VA 22314 or make your contribution online at www.entpac.org (log-in with your AAO-HNS ID and password).*

Informational Updates:
President Signs Budget Deal – Halts Scheduled SGR Cuts
On December 26, 2013, the President signed the two-year budget deal negotiated by U.S. Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) and U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA). The final legislative package passed by the U.S. House of Representatives (332-34 on 12/12/13) and U.S. Senate (64-36 on 12/18/13) included an amendment to halt (for three months) the 20+ percent cut in Medicare physician payments that was scheduled to take effect on January 1. Instead, physicians will receive a .5 percent positive increase during that time. This payment "bridge" is intended to avoid payment disruptions as Congress completes its work on permanent SGR repeal legislation in the first several months of the year.

SGR Repeal Legislation Poised for Additional Consideration
On December 19, the Senate Finance Committee formally filed legislative language pertaining to its framework to repeal the SGR. The Committee had previously been working from conceptual documents, not legislative language. This latest action sets the stage for additional consideration and the "melding" of various legislative proposals in the first part of 2014. Adding to the early-year negotiations will be priorities for SGR repeal legislation outlined by members of the GOP "Doc" Caucus in a December 13, 2013, letter to Congressional leaders. For the latest updates, follow the AAO-HNS Government Affairs team on Twitter @AAOHNSGovtAffrs.

Broad Coalition Urges Funding for Pediatric Subspecialty Loan Repayment Program
On December 19, 2013, the AAO-HNS and 40 other health-related organizations sent a letter to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittees urging funding for the Pediatric Subspecialty Loan Repayment program in FY 2014 appropriations. The Pediatric Subspecialty Loan Repayment program is intended to help mitigate pediatric physician shortages by providing a financial incentive for students to choose careers in pediatric mental health and pediatric subspecialties.

When do I-GO?
With the release of the 2014 Congressional calendar, it is clear Members of Congress will have plenty of time at home to interact with their constituents and potential voters. Act now to schedule an in-district legislative meeting or host a lawmaker at your practice, and help make the AAO-HNS In-district Grassroots Outreach (I-GO) program a success in the new year! For more information, contact the AAO-HNS Government Affairs team at govtaffairs@entnet.org.

Register Now for the 2014 AAO-HNS/F Leadership Forum
Join us for the new 2014 AAO-HNS/F Leadership Forum, February 28 – March 3, 2014, in Alexandria, VA! This meeting is one of the many free, yet rewarding, benefits available for AAO-HNS members and provides key opportunities for attendees to network and engage in peer-to-peer interaction with eminent leaders. Also included in the meeting agenda will be an advocacy session, along with a Congressional speaker. Please note: as part of the updated format for this year's meeting, there will be no pre-scheduled meetings on Capitol Hill. However, the advocacy information available during the meeting will help ensure you are well prepared to participate in the new I-GO program and meet locally with your representatives in your own state. In addition, CME credit will be awarded to members for select sessions on March 2 and 3.

2014 Congressional Retirements Make Way for Interesting Election Races
Over the past several months, several moderate Democrat and Republican Members of Congress have announced their plans to not seek re-election this year. U.S. Representatives Jim Gerlach (R-PA), Tom Latham (R-IA), Frank Wolf (R-VA), Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), Mike McIntyre (D-NC), and Jim Matheson (D-UT) are the most recent lawmakers to announce plans to retire. To date, there will be 32 open-seat elections in November and many races are being deemed more "competitive" than first thought. The Government Affairs team is monitoring several of these races, and Academy members are encouraged to visit the AAO-HNS Federal Elections page for updates and information about what is likely to become another exciting election year!

From the AAO-HNS Health Policy Team:
Academy Releases Summary of the 2014 Final Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (MPFS)
The AAO-HNS has summarized the key provisions affecting otolaryngology in the CMS MPFS final rule CY 2014, including: changes to payment policies for 2014, Value Based Payment Modifier Program, the Physician Quality Reporting System Program (PQRS), and more. 

CMS Releases 2014 Final Rule for Hospital Outpatient and Ambulatory Surgical Centers
On November 27, CMS published its final rule for the 2014 Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System (HOPPS) and Ambulatory Surgical Centers (ASCs). The AAO-HNS Health Policy team has summarized many of the key provisions, including changes to reporting clinic visits in the outpatient setting for CY 2014.

*Contributions to ENT PAC are not deductible as charitable contributions for federal income tax purposes. Contributions are voluntary, and all members of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery have the right to refuse to contribute without reprisal. Federal law prohibits ENT PAC from accepting contributions from foreign nationals. By law, if your contributions are made using a personal check or credit card, ENT PAC may use your contribution only to support candidates in federal elections. All corporate contributions to ENT PAC will be used for educational and administrative fees of ENT PAC, and other activities permissible under federal law. Federal law requires ENT PAC to use its best efforts to collect and report the name, mailing address, occupation, and the name of the employer of individuals whose contributions exceed $200 in a calendar year.