Congress Passes Spending Package: The Good, the Bad, and the Impact to GI

From ACG Legislative and Public Policy Council Chair, Louis J. Wilson, MD, FACG

This week, Congress passed the FY 2022 omnibus spending bill. In brief, the measure funds all federal government obligations through the end of FY 2022 (September 30, 2022). It contains roughly $1.5 trillion in annual appropriations, and supports military and humanitarian funding for Ukraine. Government funding was set to expire on Friday, March 11th.

The Good:
Extension of Telehealth Waivers: The omnibus contained various telehealth provisions, largely extending pandemic-related telehealth flexibilities by 151 days beyond the end of the public health emergency (PHE)— approximately 5 months. If the Federal Government ends the PHE in July 2022, for example, these provisions would be extended into the lame duck session of Congress in December. These extensions include continuing to waive geographic and originating site restrictions (in other words, continuing to allow telehealth services provided at home), removing facility fees for patients in their homes, expanding the list of eligible practitioners, and allowing for telehealth through audio-only telecommunications.

Thank you ACG members! Your successful advocacy efforts continue to help expand access to telehealth services for GI patients. ACG will continue to urge Congress to make these changes permanent.

The Bad:
Medicare Reimbursement: Congress did not address the moratorium on the Medicare Sequestration, which impacts physician and provider reimbursement. This means ACG members receive a 1% cut beginning April 1, 2022, and possibly a 2% cut beginning July 1, 2022.

This is unacceptable, as "sequestration" is designed to cut federal programs across the board when Congress fails to achieve its own budgetary benchmarks. ACG members continue to bear the burden of poor fiscal decisions on Capitol Hill when GI practices across the country face significant financial pressure of our own. According to recent U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) report, health care employment is down 2% from February 2020 while the average hourly wages have increased 5%. Inflation and other costs also continue to surge.

GI practices are stressed and stretched. ACG leaders will be fighting for our patients and practices in our upcoming meetings with Congress.

ACG Joins the DDNC on Capitol Hill

From Caroll Koscheski, MD, FACG, DDNC Vice President and ACG Representative to the DDNC

This week, I joined the Digestive Disease National Coalition (DDNC) in Washington, D.C. for the DDNC’s 2022 Public Policy Spring Forum. We urged Congress to address step therapy reform by supporting the Safe Step Act (H.R. 2163/S.464), as well as other key DDNC legislative priorities. The DDNC is an advocacy organization comprised of major professional societies and patient advocacy groups concerned with digestive diseases.

The Safe Step Act amends the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) to require an exception process for any medication step therapy protocol.

Learn more about the ACG’s partnership with the DDNC in the latest issue of ACG MAGAZINE.

Step Therapy Reform at the State Level

From Missouri ACG Governor, Christine Y. Hachem, MD, FACG

ACG is also busy advocating for step therapy reform in state houses across the country.

Recently, the Missouri State Senate Insurance and Banking Committee held a public hearing on Senate Bill 959, a bill that establishes exceptions to step therapy requirements under certain circumstances.

ACG colleagues in Missouri: Let's build off this momentum and urge our State Senators to cosponsor this important bill.

Colonoscopy Coding Tip – In Recognition of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

In the latest installment of the ACG’s "Billing and Coding Forum," Arlene Morrow answers ACG members' questions on the multiple endoscopy rule for colonoscopy.

Removing polyps saves lives!

Joint Society Response to AAMI Reprocessing Guidelines

AASLD, ACG, AGA, ASCRS, ASGE, SAGES and SGNA appreciated the opportunity to work with the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) during the update of AAMI's guidance "ST91 Flexible and semi-rigid endoscope processing in health care facilities." However, the joint GI societies remain concerned and do not support some of the finalized revisions to the standards. Thus, our societies did not support the final standards as published. ACG thanks ASGE staff for their leadership throughout this process.