2012 AANS Annual Report - page 19

Jim Matheson (D-UT) offered an amendment to grant limited civil
liability protections to health professionals that volunteer at federally
declared disaster sites. The AANS and CNS not only supported both of
these amendments, which passed, but neurosurgery was instrumental
in developing and passing these bills.
Working with the AANS’ NPA and its N
QOD project, the Washington
Committee continued to advocate for changes to the federal
government’s quality-related programs. As currently constructed,
programs such as the PQRS and the Value Based Payment Modifier
only seek to penalize health-care providers, without adding value or
improving patient care. Throughout the year, neurosurgery participated
in numerous meetings with key policymakers at the White House,
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Office of Human
Research Protection, Department of Health and Human Services’
Office of Civil Rights, National Quality Forum and Patient Centered
Outcomes Research Institute. Paul C. McCormick, MD, MPH, FAANS;
Anthony L. Asher, MD, FAANS, FACS; and Matthew J. McGirt, MD, in
particular, were tireless in their efforts to promote neurosurgery’s
clinical outcomes registry projects and to help ensure that the NPA can
become certified as a PQRS registry so as to provide neurosurgeons
with the tools to meet CMS’ quality program requirements.
Advocating for Adequate Reimbursement
With an aging population and rising health-care costs, the current
Medicare program is on an unsustainable path and, yet again, physician
reimbursement is on the chopping block. As 2011 came to a close,
Congress passed another temporary reimbursement “patch,” extending
2011 rates through the end of 2012. If Congress fails to act by the end
of 2012, neurosurgeons will face a 27 percent cut in reimbursement,
effective Jan. 1, 2013. These cuts result from Medicare’s flawed
sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula. Neurosurgery continues to
press Congress to avoid kick-the-can solutions for fixing the physician
payment system, and once and for all replace the SGR formula with a
stable mechanism for updating and reimbursing physicians. Facing dim
prospects for full SGR repeal, however, the AANS and CNS pursued
other avenues for improving Medicare reimbursement. To this end, in
FY12, neurosurgery led the effort to introduce legislation that would
remove Medicare’s current balance-billing restrictions, and allow
patients and physicians to privately contract without penalty. The
My Medicare-My Choice campaign is in full swing, and through our
collaborative efforts with the Coalition of State Medical and National
Specialty Societies, the American Medical Association established a
new campaign website and physician and patient education materials
aimed at gaining support for the Medicare Patient Empowerment Act.
In FY12, the AANS and CNS continued to aggressively challenge
third-party payer coverage policies, which limit reimbursement for
many common neurosurgical procedures — particularly in the area
of spine. The AANS/CNS Coding and Reimbursement Committee, in
collaboration with the AANS/CNS Joint Sections, have formed coverage
policy “rapid response teams” to help in these efforts. Led by Joseph
S. Cheng, MD, MS, FAANS, the rapid response teams have successfully
influenced changes in coverage policies put forward by Blue Cross-
Blue Shield, CIGNA, Wellpoint and others. These responses are made
available to AANS members, who may find them useful in their own
interactions with insurance carriers.
Empowering Grassroots Advocates
Throughout the year, the AANS actively engages its members in
the political process through grassroots activities, calls to action
and participation in NeurosurgeryPAC. In FY12, the Washington
Committee issued multiple grassroots alerts calling on neurosurgeons
to communicate with their elected officials on such issues as the
IPAB, medical-liability reform, SGR, Medicare private contracting,
quality-related penalties and overall Medicare reform. Additionally,
neurosurgeons brought their message directly to Capitol Hill by
attending the Alliance of Specialty Medicine’s Annual Legislative
Conference. Finally, hundreds of neurosurgeons donated to
NeurosurgeryPAC, which had its most successful fundraising year ever,
raising more than $250,000.
Taking Our Message to Policymakers and the Public
In addition to its direct lobbying and grassroots advocacy in Washington,
D.C., the Washington Committee is building support for neurosurgery’s
health-policy positions by carrying out a nationwide earned media
campaign, and providing the print and electronic media with timely
information that can be used for positive and educational reporting. In
FY12, the Washington Office also began using a variety of social media
platforms to reach opinion influencers in the media, on Capitol Hill and
in various health-policy circles that wouldn’t have been easily achievable
through more traditional means. These social media tools include:
a Web-based
opinion and perspective column, through which the AANS and CNS
offer insights and perspective on contemporary health issues as they
relate to organized neurosurgery.
Twitter feed that is used to gain greater visibility
for neurosurgery’s advocacy efforts. Followers consist primarily of
media, congressional and health-policy communities. Tweets focus
on health-policy updates and provide links to positive stories about
Facebook and LinkedIn sites that help drive health-policy influencers
to information on
Neurosurgery Blog
and the Twitter feed, while also
spotlight AANS and CNS initiatives that are newsworthy.
Last year, the @Neurosurgery Twitter feed “touched” more than 1.1
million Twitter users. Notably, when the
Roll Call
newspaper tweeted a
guest opinion piece by Washington Committee Chair Alex Valadka, MD,
FAANS, FACS, the article was retweeted multiple times by key health
policy influencers — including House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) —
reaching an audience of 297,525 people within a day.
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