February 7, 2014

Lead Story:
SGR Agreement Reached by Congressional Committees

On February 6, leaders from three Congressional committees released a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on legislation to permanently repeal the flawed Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) payment formula and replace it with a new Medicare payment system designed to better incentivize the delivery of high-quality, efficient healthcare. The package represents the combination of various proposals that have been evolving over the last year and signals a commitment by Congress to act in 2014 to finally address this long-standing issue. During yesterday's Congressional briefing (attended by AAO-HNS staff), the Committees provided a section-by-section overview and one-page summary of the provisions included in the final legislative package. The AAO-HNS is currently reviewing the bill to determine its impact on our members, their practices, and their patients. Once this analysis is complete, the AAO-HNS will communicate its official position to lawmakers and make the information readily available to our members. Given the importance of these ongoing activities, AAO-HNS members are encouraged to bookmark the AAO-HNS Legislative & Political Affairs website and follow the Government Affairs team on Twitter @AAOHNSGovtAffrs for real-time news and updates.

Action Requested:
Help Identify State Legislative Trends

Most state legislative sessions have begun, and bills relating to e-cigarette sales and scope-of-practice issues are already emerging as popular trends for this year. With several states convening this week, more of this type of legislation is expected. Help monitor these bills by becoming a state tracker for your state! For more information, email the Government Affairs team at govtaffairs@entent.org.

Spend Presidents' Day with Your Members of Congress
Lawmakers are scheduled to return to their districts in mid-February for the Presidents' Day recess. Don't miss this great opportunity to schedule a meeting with local officials at a district office, or better yet, invite them to visit your medical practice! An in-district work period is a key chance to discuss important issues impacting your patients and the specialty with your local lawmakers. Contact govtaffairs@entnet.org to schedule a meeting.   

Show Some Love for ENT PAC
Valentine's Day is right around the corner, and what better way to show your patients and your specialty you care than by donating to ENT PAC. By supporting ENT PAC, the political action committee of the AAO-HNS, you will help ensure pro-otolaryngology incumbents and/or viable candidates are elected and able to assist in efforts to advance our priorities on Capitol Hill. 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:
Coalition Seeks Funding for Pediatric Loan Repayment in the President's Budget
On January 31, the AAO-HNS and 34 additional health-related organizations sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget requesting the inclusion of funding for the Pediatric Specialty Loan Repayment program in the President’s FY2015 budget. The Pediatric Subspecialty Loan Repayment Program will help mitigate pediatric specialty physician shortages by providing a financial incentive for students to choose careers in pediatric mental health and pediatric subspecialties.

Musical Chairs in Congress
With last week's announcement of U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman's (CA-33) retirement, the top Democrat seat on the powerful House Energy & Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over health-related issues, will be open. Two Committee members have announced their intentions to seek the position – Rep. Frank Pallone (NJ-6) and Rep. Anna Eshoo (CA-18). Check out the AAO-HNS Federal Elections Page for more information on retirements and other election-related information!

Senate HELP Committee Conducts Hearing on the Surgeon General Nominee
On February 4, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a confirmation hearing for Vivek Murthy, MD, the President's Surgeon General nominee. Dr. Murthy is a Boston physician and political ally of the President. If Dr. Murthy, 36, is confirmed, he would be one of the youngest surgeon generals to serve in this role.

State of the Union Highlights
On January 28, President Barack Obama delivered the annual State of the Union address. During his remarks, President Obama encouraged Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, increase the minimum wage, abandon attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and called on Congress to make 2014 a "year of action." Click here to read the President's full remarks.   

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 In-district Grassroots Outreach (I-GO) program and meet locally with your representatives. In addition, CME credit will be awarded to members for select sessions on March 2 and 3.

From the AAO-HNS Health Policy Team:
CMS Clarifies Billing Policy for Cerumen Removal
On February 3, the Academy held a conference call with CMS regarding its reimbursement policy for cerumen removal, CPT 69210, after hearing from Academy members who have experienced issues with billing 69210 using the -50 modifier. Per CMS instruction on the call, this reimbursement policy will remain in place through CY 2014, so the Academy recommends that members DO NOT report 69210 using modifier -50, as the MACs are denying these claims entirely and not paying for even one unit reported. We will be working to provide CMS with additional data in hopes of obtaining a policy change in the 2015 Medicare final rule, and will keep members apprised of our progress on these advocacy efforts.

AAO-HNS Submits Comments to CMS on 2014 Fee Schedule Final Rule
On January 27, the Academy submitted comments to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on the 2014 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (MPFS) final rule. The comment letter included Academy advocacy related to payment policy issues, as well as feedback on improvements to CMS quality incentive programs to allow otolaryngologists to meaningfully participate.

*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.