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AAOE's Capitol Hill Day Wraps Up Second Year

Monday, September 24, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Bradley Coffey, MA, AAOE Government Affairs
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AAOE’s annual Capitol Hill Day took place on September 11, 2018. A total of 15 advocates gathered in Washington, D.C. to educate Members of Congress on the orthopaedic community’s work. Attendees represented 12 states and participated in a total of 42 meetings with Members of Congress and their staff. 

Capitol Hill Day participants advocated for legislation and/or congressional support to:

To amplify participants’ voices on the hill, AAOE members not attending were encouraged to participate in a virtual Hill day by writing letters to their Member of Congress on these issues on the same day. A total of 239 letters were sent to legislators to support efforts on the Hill.

Here are some key takeaways from these meetings:


Encouraging Innovation in Total Joint Care

Many legislators are supportive of moving total joint procedures to the Ambulatory Surgery Center Covered Procedures List, a necessary move for reimbursement in these facilities. But, a number of offices are still concerned about patient safety. These concerns will have to be addressed before congressional action can be taken on this topic. Additionally, Congress generally defers to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on matters of reimbursement so it’s unlikely that Congress would mandate a change in policy. AAOE’s hope was always that congressional pressure would create a change in opinion at CMS that would lead to a policy change rather than a statutory development that would lead to a policy change.

Repealing the Ban on Physician-Owned Hospitals

The Members of Congress and staff that participants met with were supportive of this issue and encouraged by the bipartisan nature of the legislation currently in Congress. The lone holdout on the Republican side is Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) who has let it be known that he opposes repeal of this ban. Because any senator can kill a legislative proposal absent a super-majority, this legislation looks doomed for another year unless a move is made to attach it to a spending omnibus in December.

Ensuring Stakeholder Input in Value-Based Payment Model Design

Current policy at CMS on value-based model introduction dictates that if a model is mandatory, the model will be published in the Federal Register and go through a comment period, a process known as “notice and comment” rulemaking. If the model is voluntary, the model does not go through the notice and comment process. This has led to surprise policies in models like BPCI Advanced that threaten to undermine CMS efforts to encourage more physicians to participate in these voluntary models. AAOE’s efforts have focused on putting these voluntary models through the notice and comment process and we’ve received bipartisan support for this. Look for this to be a central part of AAOE’s policy agenda going forward.

Increasing Reimbursement for Bone Densitometry Testing

Our ask on this issue was for co-sponsors on the legislation introduced to raise the reimbursement for DXA scans performed in a physician office. Because the legislation would add to the budget, some offices have been skeptical but were responsive to AAOE’s messaging that it would provide greater competition within the orthopaedic marketplace and lead to lower prices for patients and the Medicare program. The legislation would also lead to lower osteoporosis related costs and reverse the trend of increasing osteoporosis related hip fractures.

Look for announcements about future Capitol Hill Days as the Advocacy Council works to promote and expand the role of orthopaedic practice executives in the federal policy-making process. Change starts with you.

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