April 2002 Bulletin

Medicare Physician Payment Update

The Coalition for Fair Medicare Payment, of which the AAOS is a founding member, continues to work to correct the flawed Medicare payment formula. On February 20, 2002, the AAOS, along with 13 other medical specialty societies, met with former Senators Bob Dole and George Mitchell, who are now with the law firm of Verner Liipfert Bernhard McPherson and Hand. These Senators have been retained by the Coalition to represent our interests before Congressional leadership and help expedite a bipartisan legislative solution to this payment reduction.

Working closely with the American Medical Association (AMA), the Coalition is now in the process of developing both a short and long-term strategy to address this payment issue. The Coalition’s goals are to freeze the payment reduction for the remainder of this year, to ensure a positive update for the next few years, and to correct the flawed formula so that there will be no possibility of negative updates in the future. 

The AMA is also emailing a survey to about 2,000 doctors to seek information on their practice patterns with regard to the treatment of Medicare patients in light of this payment reduction. Any physician who wishes to participate in this survey can contact the AMA on-line at www.ama-assn.org/go/memberconnect/registration. With this data, the physician community may be in a better position to assess how reductions in reimbursement have affected access to care for Medicare beneficiaries.

Statement on Patient Safety

In a statement prepared for a House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee hearing on Patient Safety held March 7, AAOS reported on several positive measures that the Academy has undertaken to reduce or eliminate specific types of surgical errors. AAOS recommended the "Sign Your Site" initiative as a required protocol for every hospital seeking certification by the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO).  The work of the AAOS Committee on Professional Liability, which has conducted several closed-claim, retrospective reviews of insurance company records to identify and promote safe and appropriate surgical practices, as well as AAOS’ ongoing commitment to Continuous Quality Improvement and the recently established Patient Safety Committee were also mentioned.

A main focus of the hearing was to determine how emerging technologies could be incorporated into the Medicare system to reduce medical errors.  The Subcommittee also examined what type of reporting system—mandatory or voluntary—should be used when sentinel events occur. The full text of the statement can be found on the AAOS website at http://www3.aaos.org/washington/PtSafety_statement.htm

Letter to HHS Secretary

On March 5, 2002, the AAOS sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson, providing comments on reducing current burdens imposed by existing regulations of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

"The AAOS is encouraged by your department-wide initiative to reduce regulatory burdens in health care and respond rapidly to the concerns of physicians, researchers, and patients," the letter said in part.  "We are pleased to offer our perspective on the critical reforms needed to bring regulatory relief, and welcome the opportunity to work with the Secretary’s Advisory Committee as these changes are considered and possibly implemented."

The letter focused on orthopaedists’ concerns regarding Medicare regulations, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations.

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