SGR Repeal Legislation Passes Senate; Obama Expected to Sign ASAP
Last night, the Senate passed the Medicare and CHIP Reauthorization Act (H.R. 2) by an overwhelming vote of 92 to 8. This much-needed legislation permanently repeals the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula, ensuring the highest quality of care for Medicare patients and ending the threat of substantial payment cuts in physicians’ Medicare reimbursement. The House passed the legislation last month, which means the bill now goes to President Obama, who has said he will sign it.
“The AAOS commends the Senate for passing a permanent repeal and replacement of the flawed SGR formula,” stated David D. Teuscher, MD, President of AAOS. “On behalf of the more than 38,000 AAOS members, we thank Congress for the tremendous bipartisan effort put into SGR reform and congratulate legislators for enacting a bill that implements meaningful reforms to the Medicare program. I urge President Obama to sign this bill today and prevent the 21 percent cut to physician reimbursement.”  Click here to read more.

Congress Supports Peer-Reviewed Orthopaedic Research Program
Last month, Representatives Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Duncan Hunter (R-CA) led a bipartisan letter to the Subcommittee on Defense of the House Committee on Appropriations requesting inclusion of $30 million for the Peer-Reviewed Orthopaedic Research Program (PRORP) in the FY 2016 Defense Appropriations legislation. The program was established to quickly develop focused basic and clinical research through direct grants to research institutions and aims to provide all warriors affected by military orthopaedic injuries the opportunity for optimal recovery and restoration of function. According to the congressional letter, extremity injuries are the number one battlefield injury. Most of these wounds are caused by improvised explosive devices (IEDs), rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), and high-velocity gunshot wounds. Unfortunately, amputation following these kinds of battlefield injuries occurs at twice the rate of past wars. Click here to read more.

ONC EHR and Interoperability Issues
The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health IT last month released a proposed rule to address 2015-edition electronic health records (EHR) certification (read the earlier Advocacy Now article announcing the ONC rule here). The rule outlines standards to help providers meet the proposed Stage 3 requirements with a 2015 Edition Certified Electronic Health Record Technology (CEHRT). It also proposes to modify certification to make it open and accessible to more types of health IT that supports various care and practice settings. However, members of the ONC’s Health IT Committee recently criticized the length and complexity of the rule (it’s over 400 pages), and software vendors have said it would create new burdens on their industry.  Click here to read more.

NQAA Discussion on Health Care Quality
The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) held a multi-stakeholder panel discussion on the past, present and future of health care quality in the U.S. on April 1, 2015. The panel focused on the importance of quality measurement. The goal of quality measurement is to drive quality improvement, promote accountability, and to provide consumers information to make better decisions.
The increase in federal quality efforts has influenced commercial insurers to shift the paradigm from cost to value. In addition, it has created standards in the commercial space. The increase in quality information is a positive advancement, but there were some concerns shared with the effects on patients. There were concerns about the usefulness of the information. There are many reports measuring various aspects of care, making it difficult for patients to see the full picture.  Click here to read more.

NQF Annual Conference
NQF’s 2015 Annual Conference on March 23-24, Tackling Costs: The Quality Solution, offered a timely and dynamic discussion about the intersection of cost, quality, and value in healthcare. Nearly 400 national leaders in health and healthcare improvement convened in Washington, D.C., to gain insights from healthcare thought leaders on navigating the changing landscape of healthcare affordability and value. The meeting consisted of several panel discussions on medical device interoperability, producing value and affordability from the 21st century, and addressing cost drivers. The second day focused on the challenges facing the 114th Congress and healthcare reform.  Click here to read more.