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ePolicy News June 2013

Friday, May 31, 2013



ASCP to Congress: Repeal SGR, Fix Stark and Meaningful Use

Earlier this month, ASCP advocated that the powerful U.S. House of Representatives Ways & Means and Energy & Commerce Committees, both of which have oversight over Medicare, repeal the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule’s flawed Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR). This advocacy was in response to a recent joint committee report recommending the repeal and reform of the SGR, the flawed formula used to calculate the annual update in the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule.

ASCP applauded the Committee’s interest in repealing the SGR and urged Congress to close the In-Office Ancillary Services exception as one way to pay for the costly repeal. The two Congressional Committees were interested in suggestions from the medical community regarding offsets to pay for the repeal. It is estimated that the cost of repealing the SGR would be about $138 billion over 10 years. ASCP has, in conjunction with the American Medical Association, repeatedly called on Congress to repeal the SGR, which, without repeated intervention by Congress, would have imposed draconian cuts in Medicare physician payment rates.

In addition, ASCP supported the intent of quality reporting programs to improve the quality of care provided to Medicare beneficiaries. That said, ASCP urged Congress to enhance the administrative flexibility provided the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to allow the agency to exempt or create alternative quality reporting programs for those medical specialties, such as anatomic pathology, that are technically unable to meet the reporting requirements. Click here to obtain a copy of ASCP’s letter on SGR repeal.


ASCP Seeks Funding Lifeline for Allied Health Training Programs

ASCP and colleagues in the Health Professions and Nursing Education Coalition (HPNEC) are urging Congress to maintain its commitments to funding the Title VII allied health programs. ASCP and HPNEC recommend that Congress provide $520 million for Title VII health professions and Title VIII nursing programs in the FY 2014 Labor-HHS-Education spending bill. HPNEC is an alliance of national organizations representing schools, programs, health professionals, and students dedicated to ensuring that the healthcare workforce is trained to meet the needs of our diverse population.

The Titles VII and VIII programs, established in 1963, play a critical role in helping the health professions workforce adapt to meet the nation’s changing healthcare needs. “Failure to support the full range of health professions workforce programs will have serious consequences for the pipeline that helps to ensure access to quality care for vulnerable and underserved patients,” HNPEC wrote. “Further, given the synergistic nature of the programs, significant cuts to, or elimination of any of the Title VII and VIII programs may reverse the progress to date in mitigating the country’s most pressing healthcare challenges.”




Pathologist Roundtable Examines Needs of Future Workforce

The ASCP Institute for Science, Technology, and Public Policy convened its first Pathologist Workforce Roundtable during the ASCP Spring Leadership Forum. Participants included individuals in the medical field who work as pathologists, pathologists' assistants, and residents. The acting moderator, ASCP President-Elect Steve H. Kroft, MD, FASCP, asked participants to address the challenges in their practice settings with respect to the pathologist workforce. The group was also asked to provide suggestions on how ASCP can create actionable policies and solutions to the challenges that can move the field forward.

The Roundtable conversation covered a range of topics, including the increased need for pathologists in the next 10 years, a new concept of medical school admissions, the role of physician extenders/partners, and next steps. Robert Folberg, MD, FASCP, Dean and Professor of Biomedical Studies, Pathology, and Ophthalmology at the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, talked about the holistic review of residents that will create the 21st century pathologists. He said medical schools should highly consider a candidate’s experiences and attributes, such as leadership roles and community service performed (non-cognitive skills), in addition to MCATs and GPAs. Willa Rae Rader, MPA, PA(ASCP)CM, offered her perspective as a pathologists’ assistant (PA), saying that PAs are not pathologist replacers, but extenders. She recommended a team-based system be implemented in the future. Additional members of the roundtable included: Betty Chung, DO, William G. Finn, MD, FASCP, Gordon Love, MD, FASCP, Harvey M. Rinder, MD, FASCP, Gregory Sossaman, MD, FASCP, and James Wisecarver, MD, PhD, FASCP. This Roundtable discussion will complement the work of the Laboratory Professionals Task Force, which met last December 2012. An overview of the discussion that occurred at this meeting will be incorporated in the Laboratory Professionals Task Force report.

Limited Residency Slots Stymy Physician Workforce Growth

Workforce researchers, educators, and policymakers gathered last month at the 9th Annual Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Physician Workforce Research Conference to discuss growing concerns over a projected shortage of more than 90,000 primary care and specialty physicians by 2020.

U.S. medical schools appear to be on track to increase their enrollment by 30 percent by 2017, according to the results of AAMC’s annual Medical School Enrollment Survey. However, there is concern over the limited availability of residency positions. Despite increasing enrollment in the nation’s medical schools, graduate medical education (GME) positions have increased only by 8 percent since 2002. In fact, there were more unmatched seniors than unfilled positions in both the 2010 and 2013 Matches.

“We’re pleased to see our nation’s medical schools increasing enrollment to address the projected physician shortage,” AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, MD, said. “But, as we saw in the results of this year’s Match, Congress now needs to do its part and act quickly to increase the number of federally funded residency training positions in order for all medical school graduates to be able to complete their training and become practicing physicians."

Recently, ASCP and the Association of Pathology Chairs (APC) collaborated with the Cooperating Societies of the American Board of Pathology to request that the Institute of Medicine (IOM) consider adding pathology to the list of specialties that are recommended for targeted increases in Medicare funding for graduate medical education. The growing demand for medical care due to an aging population is driving the fast-paced advances in medical technology and explosion of higher laboratory test volume. Pathology and laboratory medicine will play a key role in the future of healthcare utilization in the nation. Therefore, ASCP will continue to support initiatives that will increase GME funding. (View "ASCP, APC Lead Effort to Inform IOM about Pathologist Workforce" here.)

The impact of emerging care delivery models on workforce needs took center stage at the conference. Traditionally, healthcare workforce studies focused on one or two key professions that comprise a portion of the industry’s workforce. Supply-demand analyses were based on assumptions unique to their respective disciplines, without regard for the impact of care provided by other professionals. The analysis did not take into consideration reduced utilization as a result of payment changes or clinical technologies that support self-diagnoses and treatment by consumers. With a highly complex and evolving health system, a broader approach that considers the entire care-delivery team, new clinical technologies, patient demographics, and the changing economic environment, is needed to more accurately project future workforce needs.



ASCP Institute’s Advocacy Work in the Spotlight

ASCP members can learn how the Society is advocating on their behalf by visiting a new webpage highlighting the efforts and accomplishments of the ASCP Institute for Science, Technology, and Policy. The page features browser tools that help viewers see ASCP in action while navigating public policy, collaboration and resources, science and technology, and global health. It also serves as an introduction to the relevant work that the Institute takes part in, mainly focusing on its commitment to being a voice for ASCP members, its community of health professionals, and patient health.


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