For two days this week North Carolina Medical Society (NCMS) representatives met with key US House and Senate members and staff to discuss major issues facing NCMS members such as the implementation of MACRA, reform of Medicare’s EHR/Meaningful Use program, Medicare RAC audit reform and stemming the opioid abuse epidemic. NCMS CEO Robert W. Seligson, former NCMS President Albert Osbahr, MD, and long-time NCMS member David Tayloe, MD, were part of the NCMS contingent.
The visit to Washington, D.C. was in conjunction with the Coalition of State Medical Societies, which represents 10 state societies including the NCMS. Coalition members met with U.S. Representative Michael Burgess, MD, (R-Texas), who serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and chairs its Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade. He also sits on the subcommittee on Health. A practicing physician for 30 years, Congressman Burgess was a strong advocate for repealing the SGR, which was accomplished last year. Coalition representatives also met with the Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, U.S. Representative Kevin Brady (R-Texas); democratic and republican members of the Senate Finance Committee; and with House Energy and Commerce Committee staff in addition to members of the North Carolina congressional delegation.
The Coalition told lawmakers that the medical community continues to carefully monitor implementation of MACRA to prevent unnecessary regulations that discourage physician participation. They called on representatives to adopt immediate reforms to the Meaningful Use program including expanding hardship exemptions; requiring interoperability to ensure information exchange between physicians, hospitals and health plans; and providing proportional credit for quality measures and electronic standards physicians do meet rather than taking an all-or-nothing approach.
Coalition representatives urged lawmakers to support RAC audit reform legislation to prohibit RACs from recouping physician payments until the appeals process is final; to impose penalties for inaccurate findings and to provide incentives for RACs to educate physicians on any incorrect billing practices to avoid future billing errors. North Carolina Representative George Holding and Senator Richard Burr have been strong supporters of such reforms.
Other issues addressed over the two days on Capitol Hill included increased funding for prescription drug abuse monitoring systems to help stem the opioid abuse epidemic and to expand coverage of telehealth services in order to approve access to care, while ensuring physicians are licensed in the state where the patient is receiving the treatment.
“These efforts to educate lawmakers on how policies affect physicians back home is crucial to protecting the interests and livelihood of our NCMS members,” said NCMS CEO Seligson, who attended all the meetings. “We had good, meaningful discussions on these issues and others and I hope they will bear fruit in the days and months to come.”