SHM’s 20-member Public Policy Committee, headed by Eric Siegal, MD, had a busy 2008 addressing the many legislative and regulatory issues affecting hospitalists. As a result of our efforts, SHM’s visibility with key lawmakers, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has increased significantly, and policymakers now routinely turn to us for advice and expertise. Here is an update on how the committee represents hospital medicine—and your interests—in our nation’s capital.
Medicare Payment Cuts Prevented
Earlier this year, SHM’s Public Policy Committee (PPC) worked tirelessly to secure passage of H.R. 6331, the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act (MIPPA). It blocked the 10.6% physician payment cut, which was scheduled to go into effect July 1, 2008, and extended current payment rates through Dec. 31, 2009 Thanks in part to concerted advocacy by SHM and its members, Congress voted overwhelmingly July 15 to override President Bush’s veto of this measure. The new law (P.L. 110-275) includes 18 months of relief from scheduled cuts in Part B Medicare payments, other increases in reimbursement for inpatient evaluation and management services, and several SHM-supported quality improvement initiatives.
Beginning Jan. 1, hospitalists will see a 1.1% increase in Part B payments, instead of a projected 5.4% cut. SHM strongly supported provisions of the bill, which requires CMS to apply budget-neutral adjustments for 2007 and 2008 to the conversion factor. This change will result in an estimated average gain of another 3% in total Medicare payments for hospitalists.
SHM also supported continued funding of the Physician Quality Reporting Initiative (PQRI) and other quality provisions contained in MIPPA. Under the new Medicare act, hospitalists who successfully report quality measures are eligible for a bonus payment in 2009 and 2010 of 2% (up from 1.5%) of their total Medicare allowed charges. The new law also requires the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop a plan to transition to a value-based purchasing program for physician services.
SHM took multiple steps to influence MIPPA’s successful passage. Here are a few of those steps:
- When Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, announced he was working on legislation to reverse the pending cuts in Medicare payments, the PPC immediately commended his efforts and offered our assistance with the bill, specifically focusing on quality improvement provisions.
- Sen. Baucus introduced S. 3101, which formed the basis of the final Medicare bill, H.R. 6331, in June. On June 9, the PPC sent a letter to Sen. Baucus, formally supporting his efforts to address the pending payment reductions and praising other provisions in the bill promoting quality reporting, including continuation of the PQRI program; a requirement that measures be endorsed by a consensus-based, standard-setting entity such as the National Quality Forum, which CMS posts on its Web site the list of providers who participate in the PQRI; and that HHS provide confidential feedback to providers regarding their resource use.
- In a July 10 letter, we urged President Bush to immediately sign H.R. 6331 into law, stating, “This legislation, passed by bipartisan margins in both the House and Senate, contains many positive elements for hospitalists and their patients, and deserves your support.”
- As part of our advocacy efforts, the PPC launched a comprehensive, grassroots campaign to pass MIPPA, sending an unprecedented number of communications to inform and mobilize SHM members. In the month leading up to final passage of H.R. 6331, we sent 12 legislative e-mail updates to SHM members, urging each member to contact his or her lawmakers via our legislation action center. As a result of this outreach, hospitalists generated a total of 1,269 messages to members of Congress, urging policy makers to stop the Medicare cuts to physician payments. We thank all of you who visited the action center and contacted your lawmakers. Your efforts were vital to the success of SHM’s campaign to stop the cuts and passage of H.R. 6331.