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ASA Joins 'United Surgical Agenda' Letter to Congress

Monday, March 28, 2011

The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) joined with other physician organizations specializing in surgery to present a “United Surgical Agenda.”  The Agenda was outlined in a letter sent to members of Congress.  The United Surgical Agenda is backed by organizations representing over 250,000 members in the surgical and anesthesia community. 

This agenda addresses a wide range of issues and makes specific recommendations.

Payment Reform and Alternative Payment Systems:
“Going forward, Congress must avoid short-term, band-aid solutions for fixing the physician payment system and once and for all replace the Medicare sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula with a stable mechanism for updating and reimbursing physicians. Any new payment system must preserve the patient-physician relationship and ensure that patients have timely access to the physician of their choice.”

Information in the Healthcare Marketplace: 
“Congress should repeal Section 2706 of PPACA (aka, the “non-discrimination” language) which prohibits health plans from recognizing the variations in training and education between different types of health care providers in coverage and contracting decisions. Congress should also pass the “Health Care Truth and Transparency Act” to empower patients in their health care decision making with more marketplace information.”

Medical Liability Reform:  
“Congress should pass legislation that: includes reasonable limits on non-economic damages, similar to laws in California or Texas; ensures liability protections for physicians who follow practice evidence-based guidelines established by their specialties; protects physicians volunteering services in a disaster or local or national emergency situation; applies the Federal Tort Claims Act to cases involving EMTALA-mandated services; directly explores alternatives, including health courts and early disclosure and compensation offers, and makes clear that nothing in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act creates a new cause of action. Also, Congress should fully fund the liability grant program and amend the law to prevent plaintiffs from opting out of the program once enrolled.”
Quality Improvement Initiatives:
“The Department of Health and Human Services should incentivize and support the development of specialty and/or condition-specific, outcomes-focused clinical data registries.  Congress should fully fund the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), created by the PPACA, which is the appropriate avenue for conducting comparative effectiveness research, provided the charge of the PCORI continues to focus on conducting clinical, rather than cost, effectiveness research in an open and transparent manner.”
Ensuring an Adequate Workforce: 
“Congress should: explore options to enhance the current financial support of graduate medical education through Medicare and other payors; amend PPACA to add an additional slotted seat for a surgeon or an anesthesiologist on the National Health Care Workforce Commission; and appropriate the full $30 million authorized for the pediatric specialty loan repayment program and consider authorizing similar loan forgiveness programs for other surgical and anesthesia specialties with documented current or future workforce shortages, especially those specialties with longer training programs.”
Integration of Clinical Services: 
“CMS should work with the surgical community to address concerns about utilization increases through the development of appropriateness guidelines and quality measures. Also, Congress should enact public policies that encourage rather than discourage the integration of clinical services in order to augment other care coordination programs in use and under consideration as part of achieving a more efficient health care delivery system.”

Click here to read the entire letter.



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