May 3, 2018

National Update

CMS proposes overhaul of the Meaningful Use program

In the recently released 2019 Medicare Hospital Inpatient Prospective Payment System proposed rule, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is advancing an overhaul of the Meaningful Use (MU) program to improve flexibility, reduce physician burdens and advance health-information exchange and patient access measures.

To better reflect this new focus, CMS is renaming the MU program the Promoting Interoperability Program. The AMA has advocated many of the proposed changes and supports CMS' general direction of narrowing the MU program requirements and focusing  on interoperability. Proposed changes include:

Allowing hospitals to send physicians more relevant information such as "referral notes" instead of large, bulky data dumps as a way to meet health-information exchange requirements.

CMS has also stated that it will be changing name of the Advancing Care Information component of the Quality Payment Program (QPP) to Promoting Interoperability. Further rulemaking will be required to make changes to measures under that program.

Medicine concerned about Medicaid cuts to in-office clinical testing services

On April 27, the AMA along with a number of physician specialty and state medical societies sent a letter to CMS Administrator Seema Verma raising concerns about the impacts of cuts to payment for clinical laboratory testing services on Medicaid beneficiaries.

Specifically, the letter raised concerns about the potential impacts for patient access to testing services provided at the point of care by physician office-based labs. 2018 marks the first year of a new Medicare payment system for clinical testing services paid on the Clinical Laboratory Fee Schedule (CLFS). This new payment system relies on laboratory-reported private payer pricing data to calculate new "market-based" rates for tests paid on the CLFS, including many point of care tests provided in physician offices.

As expected, physician office-based laboratories are seeing cuts to payment for these services, which the AMA expects will continue to get steeper over the next several years. This is particularly problematic for Medicaid programs, as it has been reported that in many states, Medicaid programs will implement additional cuts to already-reduced Medicare payment rates for these critical testing services. Learn more from the AMA about the new CLFS payment system.

AMA supports the FDA's ability to regulate all tobacco products

The AMA along with more than a dozen other physician groups sent a letter to ranking members of the Senate and House appropriations committees urging them to oppose any provisions that weaken or delay the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) ability to regulate any and all tobacco products. Responding to provisions passed by the House in recent years that exempt thousands of tobacco products—including many candy- and fruit-flavored products now favored by teens—from the scientific review process mandated by the Family Smoking and Prevention Tobacco Control Act is cause for concern as 11.3 percent of high school students in 2016 reported using e-cigarettes during the last 30 days.

Under these House provisions, many tobacco products that the FDA had only just begun to regulate, such as e-cigarettes and cigars, would be exempted from a product review if they were on the market prior to Aug. 8, 2016. The oft-cited reason for these provisions is the ability of e-cigarettes to help smokers quit traditional cigarettes; however, the efficacy of this is not yet proven by the research.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine concluded that there was only limited evidence from randomized controlled trials to assess the effectiveness of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid compared with FDA-approved medications or quitting without medical treatment. Thusly, the AMA along with several other physician organizations, believe it is necessary to reassert the FDA's pre-market review of all tobacco products in order to protect public health.

House and Senate committees advance legislation to address opioid-use disorder

The Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittees marked up legislation on April 25 and 26, respectively, on addressing the opioid crisis.  

The HELP Committee passed S. 2680, the "Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018," by a vote of 23-0. The AMA offered its support for the measure, which includes:

HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R, Tenn., indicated that he would like to see the full Senate consider S. 2680 this summer.

The Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee approved 57 bills—35 passed by voice vote, 13 passed en bloc and nine passed by individual roll call votes. These bills addressed a wide range of issues, including Medicare and Medicaid policies and programs regulated by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Subcommittee Chairman Michael Burgess, MD, R, Texas, noted that the committee will continue to work with members, stakeholders and the administration to improve those bills that will be considered by the full committee later this month.  

The AMA will continue to work with the HELP and the Energy and Commerce committees, as well as other committees, to ensure sound policies to address the opioid epidemic are included in the final package.

AMA participates in drug pricing briefing

On April 25, Jack Resneck, MD, chair-elect of the AMA Board of Trustees, participated in a briefing for members of the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee entitled "Prescription Medication Pricing and Access Challenges and Solutions." 

Dr. Resneck presented the AMA's recommendations that policymakers prioritize legislation and regulatory action to:

New AMA report details how physicians are compensated

Based on nationally representative data from the AMA's Physician Practice Benchmark Surveys, this Policy Research Perspective describes how physicians are compensated by their practice. Salary continues to be the dominant method for physician compensation, although productivity is also a large and important factor, especially for owners.

In 2016, the average share of compensation from salary was 52.5 percent with 55.5 percent of physicians reporting that the majority of their compensation came from salary. In contrast, the average share of compensation from productivity was 31.8 percent with only 28.6 percent of physicians reporting that the majority of their compensation came from that method.

Further, the use of multiple methods to determine physicians' overall compensation has been on the upswing. In 2012, 48.2 percent of physicians indicated that their compensation was dependent on more than one method compared to 51.0 percent in 2014 and 54.4 percent in 2016.

Read more at AMA Wire®.

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State Update

AMA testifies on opioids, artificial intelligence at FSMB annual meeting

The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) last week adopted new policies that evaluate current state opioid prescribing policies as well as discuss artificial intelligence and its impact on patient safety, decision making, and regulation. 

The FSMB will also prepare a report that reviews acute opioid prescribing patterns, practice, federal laws and guidance, state rules and laws, and available data. The AMA testified in support of both actions. The FSMB also adopted reports on PDMPs, stem cell therapy, and physician wellness and burnout that provide guidance for state medical boards in addressing these areas of medical practice.

Update will change buprenorphine MME display in most state PDMPs

The AMA and American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) worked with Appriss Health, the developer of more than 40 state PDMP platforms, to ensure that buprenorphine for the treatment of opioid-use disorder has been removed from all displayed morphine milligram equivalent (MME) calculations throughout its system.

Appriss Health reported that it deployed a full system update on April 11, 2018, that clearly separates buprenorphine from opioids that are used for the treatment of chronic pain. The company also strengthened guidance to exclude medications used for medication-assisted treatment from Centers for for Disease Control and Prevent-recommended MME limits (i.e. 90 MME per day).

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Judicial Update

Travel ban threatens to worsen access to care

The Trump administration argues that its executive order severely limiting immigration or business and tourist travel to and from eight countries is necessary to promote national security. The Association of American Medical Colleges, the AMA and 33 other health care professional organizations argue that it will have the opposite effect.

"From a legal standpoint, it's an issue of health security," AAMC Executive Vice President Atul Grover, MD, PhD, told AMA Wire. "The premise of the executive order is that we have to keep people out to keep us safe. But you're keeping people out who are going to take care of us."

The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments April 25 in Trump v. Hawaii, a case involving a presidential executive order officially known as proclamation No. 9645, prohibiting immigration or limiting business and tourist travel to and from North Korea, Venezuela, and six Muslim-majority nations: Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.

The AAMC filed an amicus brief that was joined by the AMA and 33 other professional associations in support of the state of Hawaii and other plaintiffs seeking to block implementation of the president's order.

Hawaii argues that the proclamation, also known as the "travel ban," hinders the University of Hawaii's retention and recruitment of students and faculty, harms the state's tourism industry, and impairs the state's ability to enforce nondiscrimination laws.

The AMA, AAMC and the others argue the ban exacerbates the growing physician shortage, widens workforce gaps in underserved areas, disrupts U.S. physician-training programs, and impedes the collaboration of scientists and health professionals seeking to prevent, prepare for and manage public health threats.

Read more at AMA Wire.

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Other News

APM set forth for opioid-use disorder treatment

The AMA and ASAM jointly developed and released a concept paper detailing a groundbreaking alternative payment model (APM) for use by teams of addiction specialists, primary care physicians and other health professionals to manage the full array of medical, pharmaceutical and psychosocial care for opioid-use disorder (OUD) patients.

The Patient-Centered Opioid Addiction Treatment (P-COAT) model is expected to increase the number of OUD patients who are able to lead satisfying, productive lives through successful management of their condition while also reducing spending on preventable costs associated with addiction, such as emergency department visits and hospitalizations. 

P-COAT aims to broaden access to proven, effective treatment for OUD by supporting coordinated care by multiple health professionals and ending the fragmentation and service gaps that have often characterized addiction treatment. P-COAT includes a number of innovative features, including an add-on payment for participating treatment teams that make use of clinically validated digital care management tools to improve patient adherence to treatment plans. 

ASAM and the AMA are now seeking physician practices and insurers interested in pilot testing the new payment model, who can submit their contact information here. The organizations are also working with the House Energy and Commerce Committee on potential inclusion of a provision establishing a Medicare demonstration project of an alternative payment model for OUD in the legislation the committee is developing to address the opioid epidemic. A discussion draft of such a measure was included in legislation that cleared the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee April 25.

Read more at AMA Wire.

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Upcoming Events

May 7–11: Solutions to a Healthier Nation
Working together, medical practices and health service organizations can significantly improve the nation's blood-pressure control rate of 54 percent. Join this AMA International Medical Graduates Community discussion to learn how IMGs play a critical role in reducing the number of Americans who have heart attacks and strokes, along with steps they can take to help prioritize blood-pressure control. Visit discussion page.

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