Washington Watch Weekly - March 19, 2021 | ASCRS
Washington Watch

Washington Watch Weekly - March 19 2021

Legislation to Prevent the Medicare Sequester Cuts from Taking Effect Passes the House of Representatives; Bipartisan Legislation Introduced in the Senate to Extend Moratorium on 2% Medicare Sequestration Cuts

On March 19, the House passed, by a vote of 246-175, H.R. 1868, legislation introduced by House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-KY) that would prevent the Medicare sequester cuts by extending the moratorium on the 2% Medicare sequestration through the end of the year and waiving the PAYGO rules to prevent the 4% sequestration cut to Medicare payments, as well as to other programs, that would go into effect on January 1, 2022. As a reminder, the passage of the COVID-19 relief package, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, activated PAYGO statute reductions, which triggers cuts to a defined set of programs, including an additional 4% Medicare cut.

Additionally, Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced bipartisan legislation, the Medicare Sequester Relief Act (S. 748), that would extend the moratorium on the 2% Medicare sequestration through the public health emergency. ASCRS, in conjunction with the Alliance of Specialty Medicine, sent a letter in support of this legislation.

Provider Relief Fund (PRF) Reporting Portal Open for Registration Only

As we have reported, recipients of Provider Relief Fund (PRF) payments exceeding $10,000 in aggregate must register in the Provider Relief Fund Reporting Portal. The portal is currently only open for registration, not the actual step of submitting the key data for reporting.

There is no deadline for completing registration in the portal. After registering, recipients will later receive a notification about when they should complete the second step of submitting reporting requirements information on the use of funds. HRSA will send a broadcast email to the email address you provide during the registration process.

Please refer to the PRF Reporting Portal User Guide and the Reporting Portal FAQs for more information about the registration process. We will provide additional information when it becomes available.

Senate Confirms Xavier Becerra as HHS Secretary

On March 18, the Senate confirmed Xavier Becerra as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) by a 50-49 vote. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) was the only Republican to vote in support of his confirmation.

Xavier Becerra has served as the attorney general of California since 2017. Before becoming his state's attorney general, he served 12 terms as a U.S. House of Representatives member. Additionally, while in Congress, he served as Ranking Member of the Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicare.

MedPAC Releases March 2021 Report to the Congress; No Payment Updates for Physicians and ASCs

This week, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) released its March 2021 Report to the Congress: Medicare Payment Policy. For the calendar year 2022, the Commission recommends no payment update for physicians and other professionals.

Additionally, the Commission recommends that for the calendar year 2022, Congress eliminate the update to the 2021 Medicare conversion factor for ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs). It continues to recommend that the secretary of HHS collect cost data from ASCs.

As a reminder, MedPAC is an advisory body to Congress and has no force of law.

ASCRS Joins the Alliance of Specialty Medicine in Issuing Support for Bipartisan Legislation that Would Put Limits on Insurers Use of Step Therapy

On Tuesday, March 16, ASCRS joined the Alliance of Specialty Medicine in a letter expressing support for the bipartisan Safe Step Act (S. 464). The legislation, introduced by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Bill Cassidy, MD (R-LA), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) would provide patients and providers with a clear and transparent appeals process when subject to step therapy protocols instituted by insurers. Specifically, this legislation will help by requiring insurers to implement a clear and fair appeals process accessible on the plan’s website that allows step therapy to be bypassed in medically necessary circumstances. It would also establish a time frame in which insurers must respond to appeals to ensure that patients can receive appropriate treatment in a timely manner.

CMS to Release Comparative Billing Report on Comprehensive Eye Examinations

In late March, CMS will issue Comparative Billing Reports (CBR) to physicians on Part B claims for comprehensive eye examinations. The report will allow you to compare your billing and payment patterns with peers in your state and across the nation.

To ensure your report's delivery, CMS encourages you to update your email address in the Provider Enrollment, Chain, and Ownership System (PECOS). Look for an email from cbrpepper.noreply@religroupinc.com to access your report. Please note, the reports are not visible to the public.

For more information on the CBR, please access the links below:

Biden Administration Continues to Search for FDA Commissioner

New reports indicate that the White House continues to search for a permanent commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Janet Woodcock, MD, was appointed as acting commissioner of the FDA by President Biden at the beginning of his administration. Dr. Woodcock has been at the FDA since 1986 and appeared to be the likely candidate for the position. However, Senate Democrats have voiced concerns around a formal nomination due to her lack of oversight and handling of the opioid epidemic.

2019 Quality Payment Program Preview Period is Ending on March 25, 2021

The Doctors and Clinicians Preview Period for the 2019 Quality Payment Program (QPP) ends on March 25, 2021 at 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. PT). If you haven’t previewed your information already, don’t miss your chance to preview your 2019 QPP performance information before it is publicly reported on clinician and group profile pages on Medicare Care Compare and in the Provider Data Catalog (PDC).

You can access the secured Preview through the QPP website.

Please refer to the resources below on how to preview your information:

To learn more about the 2019 QPP performance information that is available for preview as well as the 2018 clinician utilization data that will be added to the PDC, download these documents from the Care Compare: Doctor and Clinician Initiative page:

Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) can preview their performance information via their 2019 MIPS Performance Feedback Reports. A list of ACO performance information targeted for public reporting is available on the Care Compare: Doctors and Clinicians Initiative page.

If you have any questions about public reporting for doctors and clinicians or the Preview Period, please contact us at QPP@cms.hhs.gov.

Register for the 2021 Quality Payment Program Overview Webinar

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is hosting a webinar on Thursday, April 8, 2021 from 2:00 – 3:30 p.m. ET to provide an overview of the Quality Payment Program (QPP) for the 2021 performance year. This presentation will review requirements for the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) and Advanced Alternative Payment Models (APMs).

During the webinar, CMS subject matter experts will provide information on ways to participate in QPP in 2021, including:

  • MIPS requirements
  • Requirements for MIPS APMs
  • Participation through Advanced APMs
  • Help and support

CMS will answer questions from attendees at the end of the webinar as time permits. To register, please visit here.

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