CDC Releases COVID-19 Vaccine Safety Data Report; HHS Secretary Nomination Hearings & New CMS Administrator

From ACG Legislative and Public Policy Council Chair, James C. Hobley, MD, MSc, FACG

Below, please find a summary of the latest policy developments impacting ACG members. ACG will continue to advocate on behalf of our membership, patients, and clinical GI.

CDC Releases First Month COVID-19 Vaccine Safety Data Report: On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a safety data monitoring report covering the first month of COVID-19 vaccinations (December 14, 2020–January 13, 2021). During this period, according to the report, 13,794,904 vaccine doses were administered. The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) received 6,994 reports of adverse events after vaccination, including 6,354 (90.8%) that were classified as non-serious and 640 (9.2%) as serious. The symptoms most frequently reported to VAERS were headache (22.4%), fatigue (16.5%), and dizziness (16.5%). Rare cases of anaphylaxis after receipt of both vaccines were reported (4.5 reported cases per million doses administered).

Did you miss ACG's February 9th webinar on vaccination facts and myths? What are the top GI consults for a COVID-19 patient and what to do? Patients, friends, or family members asking you about the latest COVID-19 developments in therapeutics? Click here to access the recording of the “COVID-19 Management: Pearls for the Gastroenterologist” webinar.

HHS Secretary Hearings Set for Next Week & New CMS Administrator: The U.S. Senate will begin holding confirmation hearings on Xavier Becerra’s nomination for Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary next week. The Senate HELP Committee will have its hearing on February 23rd and the Senate Finance Committee’s hearing will be on February 24th.

On Friday, the Biden Administration announced that Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, MPP, will be the new Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). She served in the Obama administration as a senior CMS official and helped implement the Affordable Care Act’s coverage expansion and insurance-market reforms. She also worked on Capitol Hill as a Democratic staff member for the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, where then-Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) was a member.

FDA Updates Allowable N95 Masks and Respirators:  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently updated the list of non-NIOSH-approved respirator models manufactured in China, but are authorized for emergency use during the COVID-19 public health emergency. These respirators are authorized for use by healthcare personnel in healthcare settings in accordance with the CDC's recommendations.

Still having trouble accessing PPE? ACG has continued its partnership with Project N95 in order to assist GI practices in accessing PPE at bulk prices. Click here to take advantage of this ACG member benefit.

ACG Advocating Congress on Important Legislation: The ACG Legislative and Public Policy Council and the ACG Board of Governors continue to advocate on behalf of clinical gastroenterology, both at the federal and state level. Earlier this year, ACG joined a coalition of like-minded organizations urging Congress to delay a 2% Medicare reimbursement cut looming April 2021. This cut was temporarily delayed before 116th Congress adjourned in December 2020.

ACG continues to educate Congress on the importance of telehealth services, especially in rural areas and among Medicare beneficiaries. Telehealth continues to play an integral role in treating patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) has reintroduced the Protecting Access to Post-COVID-19 Telehealth Act (H.R. 366), a bill that eliminates most geographic and originating site restrictions and requires CMS to continue coverage flexibilities beyond the end of the public health emergency.

ACG Magazine Special Issue: The 2021 Practice Management Toolbox Highlights

From ACG Practice Management Committee Chair Stephen T. Amann, MD, FACG

The ACG Magazine's "2021 Practice Management Toolbox Highlights" is now out! This special issue contains numerous articles crafted by members of the Practice Management Committee and is a fantastic resource for ACG members and GI practices. 

In addition to the 2021 Practice Management Toolbox Highlights, ACG members are encouraged to check out the 2020 Public Policy Year in Review.

Coding Changes to Evaluation and Management (E/M) Services: Important Guidance from the GI Societies

From ACG CPT Coding Physician Advisor, Christopher Y. Kim, MD, FACG

The ACG, AGA, and ASGE on-demand webinar series offers practical information you can implement immediately in your practice to maximize reimbursement and stay compliant with Medicare rules. Please share this valuable resource with any member of your team responsible for coding and billing. Learn about the 2021 changes to evaluation and management (E/M) codes and guidelines and coding for telehealth (video visits) and telephone E/M from our current procedural terminology (CPT) experts. Please click here to access the webinars and to learn more about the 2021 changes to E/M services.

The GI societies also recently provided membership with updated 2021 Medicare reimbursement rates for selected GI services (national average rates). Please click here to access this data.

What is the Practice Management Toolbox?

The Toolbox is a series of short articles, written by practicing gastroenterologists, that provide members with easily accessible information to improve their practices. Each article covers an issue important to private practice gastroenterologists and physician-lead clinical practices. They include a brief introduction, a topic overview, specific suggestions, helpful examples and a list of resources or references. Each month a new edition of the Toolbox will be released and will then remain available here along with all previous editions. The Practice Management Committee is confident this series will a provide valuable resource for members striving to optimize their practices.