Heart of Health Policy | Hearings on the Hill Tackle Several ACC Priority Issues

Hearings on the Hill Tackle Several ACC Priority Issues

Congress held several hearings this spring considering a variety of topics significant to cardiovascular clinicians and patients. The ACC Advocacy team has been closely monitoring these events to identify opportunities to engage with policymakers.

Of note, congressional committees have recently explored Medicare payment reform, extending telehealth flexibilities, administrative burden in health care and more. The following listing summarizes some of the most relevant and consequential hearings on health care policy of late.

Hearings on the Hill Tackle Several ACC Priority Issues

Senate Committee Discusses Physician Payment Reform

The U.S. Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on Medicare physician payment, featuring testimony on Medicare physician payment challenges and potential reforms. The committee discussed many of the ACC's key priorities in advocating for sustainable, long-term payment reform, including the need to address the budget neutrality threshold, challenges within Medicare Advantage like prior authorization and excessive spending on marketing and enrollment programs, and more.

To address the lack of annual inflationary updates to the Medicare physician payment system, the ACC champions the Strengthening Medicare for Patients and Providers Act (H.R. 2474), which would update the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule conversion factor to be equal to the estimated percentage increase in the Medicare Economic Index. ACC members can act on this issue by urging their members of Congress to co-sponsor the bill. Click here to send your message.

Hearings on the Hill Tackle Several ACC Priority Issues

House Committee Advances Key Legislation to Extend Telehealth Flexibilities

The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee advanced legislation that would expand pandemic-era telehealth flexibilities for an additional two years. The Preserving Telehealth, Hospital and Ambulance Access Act (H.R. 8261) extends several telehealth provisions, including a two-year waiver of originating site restrictions and allowing Medicare reimbursement for audio-only telehealth.

The current telehealth flexibilities extension is set to expire at the end of 2024. Barring action from Congress, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will revert to pre-pandemic telehealth rules.

Hearings on the Hill Tackle Several ACC Priority Issues

Experts Testify Before Senate Committee on Administrative Burden in Health Care

The U.S. Senate Budget Committee held a hearing on alleviating administrative burden for health care professionals. The committee heard testimony pertaining to the growing level of administrative burden associated with practicing medicine, which highlighted the extensive role prior authorization plays in delaying patient care and contributing to clinician burnout.

Witnesses included David M. Cutler, PhD, an applied economics professor from Harvard University; Noah Benedict, MHL, president and CEO of Rhode Island Primary Care Physicians Corporation; and Anthony M. DiGiorgio, DO, MHA, a neurosurgeon and assistant professor at University of California, San Francisco.

Hearings on the Hill Tackle Several ACC Priority Issues

House Committee Advances CV Rehab Legislation

The Health Subcommittee of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee passed the Sustainable Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Services in the Home Act (H.R. 1406), legislation endorsed by the ACC that would permanently allow patients to receive in-home cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation services under Medicare. Securing permanent telehealth capabilities, which were supported during the pandemic, remains a priority for the ACC to ensure patients continue to have ample access to care.

Hearings on the Hill Tackle Several ACC Priority Issues

Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Rural Health Care

The U.S. Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on supporting and improving health care in rural communities, which included testimony on challenges and possible policy solutions associated with providing care to rural populations.

Topics on the docket spanned the role of telehealth, challenges to recruiting and retaining physicians in rural areas, and barriers to care like transportation and high-speed internet limitations. The ACC is committed to advancing equal access to cardiovascular care regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status or geography.

Hearings on the Hill Tackle Several ACC Priority Issues

Senate Committee Discusses Diversity in Clinician Training and Maternal Health

The U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing on a wide range of issues facing the health care system, including clinician workforce challenges and ways to increase training for those in underrepresented communities. The committee also discussed the maternal health crisis and infant mortality rates.

Key themes from the hearing included the need to address disparities in care, the importance of recruiting more clinicians from diverse backgrounds and additional funding for maternal health initiatives. Click here to read a joint statement from nine supporting cardiovascular societies, including the ACC, that touches on this topic.

Hearings on the Hill Tackle Several ACC Priority Issues

Senate Committee Markup For Clinician Well-Being and CHD Legislation

The U.S. Senate HELP Committee also held a markup for several pieces of legislation that the ACC has been closely following. The committee passed the Dr. Lorna Health Care Provider Protection Act (S. 3679), which reauthorizes funding to address clinician mental health and burnout, and the Congenital Heart Futures Reauthorization Act of 2024 (S. 3757), which reauthorizes funding for congenital heart disease (CHD) research along with funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hearings on the Hill Tackle Several ACC Priority Issues

House Committees Explore Impact of Private Equity on Health Care

The Health Subcommittee of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing examining the challenges current economic trends pose to independent medicine considering. While the hearing did not contain specific legislation, testimony was heard on market forces that have led to the reduction of small and independent medical practices, including consolidation, the growth of private equity in health care, reimbursement concerns and clinician burnout.

The U.S. House Budget Committee held an additional hearing looking at the budgetary effects of health care consolidation, which heard testimony on the impact of health care market concentration and vertical integration on the U.S. national debt.

Congressional Working Group Releases AI Framework For Health Care

The Bipartisan Senate AI Working Group released a framework in May including several policy proposals on the implementation and regulation of artificial intelligence (AI) in health care.

The framework encourages congressional committees to use a "risk-based approach" when evaluating AI applications and calls for "appropriate guardrails and safety measures" such as consumer protection, fraud prevention and promoting the use of accurate and representative data.

Additional proposals within the framework address topics such as Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services payment, funding for cross-government research and development, biosecurity, combatting drug trafficking, and liability of AI developers and users.

The ACC is reviewing the framework, along with other policy proposals, with its AI in Medicine Working Group to ensure the voice of cardiology is heard as policymakers begin to act on regulating the use of AI in health care.

Many of these health policy issues will be on the agenda at ACC Legislative Conference 2024, taking place Sept. 29 to Oct. 1 in Washington, DC. The annual three-day event offers cardiovascular clinicians spanning the entire care team the opportunity to learn about the legislative process, network with fellow ACC Advocates and advocate for themselves and their patients on Capitol Hill. Don't miss the chance to meet directly with members of Congress and champion patient access to cardiovascular care. Click here to register.

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Keywords: Cardiology Magazine, ACC Publications, Telemedicine, Health Services Accessibility, Health Policy, Maternal Health, Rural Health


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