21st Century Cures Act Becomes Law A case study in effective advocacy BY KRISTIN MURPHY


ate last year, Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act, which

includes a version of the Electronic Health Fairness Act of 2015. The bi- partisan bill, introduced by US Repre- sentatives Fred Upton (R-MI) and Di- anne DeGette (D-CO) and signed into law by President Barack Obama on December 13, 2016, is a nearly 1,000- page legislative package that provides funding for the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Adminis- tration and opioid abuse prevention. By the time the bill passed, ASCA members, staff and other stakeholders had been working for nearly two years with our congressional champions to advocate for the electronic health re- cord (EHR) provision that was includ- ed in the final legislation. The journey toward passage of the EHR provision of the Cures Act began when ASCA realized that Medi- care’s meaningful use program might put physicians who see most of their patients in the ASC setting at risk of not being able to meet the thresholds required to avoid payment penalties. Current law requires Medicare pro- viders to adopt and show “meaning- ful use” of certified electronic health record technology (CEHRT) for a fixed percentage of their patients. Unfortu- nately, no CEHRT is currently avail- able for ASC encounters, which put some ASC physicians at risk of cuts in their professional fees. ASCA staff addressed this prob-

lem by partnering with Congressmen Diane Black (R-TN) and David Scott (D-GA), as well as Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Michael Bennet (D-CO), to introduce the Electronic Health Fairness Act of 2015 (EHFA). That

bill exempted ASC patient encounters from being used in mean-

ingful use program calculations until CEHRT is authorized for ASCs. Once the bill was introduced, ASCA led a multi-faceted advocacy campaign to educate and build sup- port with policy makers. ASCA mem- bers flew to Washington, DC, as part of ASCA’s Capitol Fly-in program and conducted nearly 250 in-person con- stituent meetings with their elected officials to raise awareness on the issue and to demonstrate how it could affect physicians and patients in their district. Other ASCA members also contacted their members of Congress to request support for the legislation. ASCA’s federal legislative team built a coalition of other associations to sup- port the legislation and implement a targeted direct lobbying campaign to move the legislation toward passage. ASCA’s regulatory team also held meetings and briefings with regulators and industry stakeholders to discuss the problem.

This campaign was highly effec-

tive and drove home the importance of protecting patient access to the high- value, cost-effective care ASCs pro- vide. As a result, the legislation passed with overwhelming bipartisan support

This article first appeared online in February 2017 in the Digital Debut section of 32 ASC FOCUS JUNE/JULY 2017 |

in the House and, then, as a slightly altered version, in the Senate during the summer of 2016. Unfortunately, since the two versions differed slightly, Congress had to draft and vote on a reconciled version to achieve final pas- sage. ASCA continued to work with its congressional supporters to keep the bill in play. Finally, as 2016 was drawing to a close, the opportunity arose for the Electronic Health Fairness Act to be part of the 21st Century Cures Act, the last health care legislative action of the 114th Congress. ASCA engaged its members, stakeholder partners and congressional champions to lobby for the legislation to be included. Thanks to the work of ASC supporters over two years, leaders in Congress were receptive to the appeals and made the Electronic Health Fairness Act Section 16003 of the Cures Act. Without the concerted efforts of ASCA members, ASC champions in Congress and a coalition of other stakeholders, the Electronic Health Fairness Act would not be law today. ASCA thanks everyone who helped make this possible. Your trips to Wash- ington and the time you contributed to writing letters, making phone calls and meeting with our elected officials were instrumental in achieving this victory. While we celebrate this achieve- ment, the effort to promote and pro- tect the ASC industry continues as Congress debates the future of Amer- ica’s health care delivery system. Your involvement in ASCA’s ASC advocacy efforts is critically important to achiev- ing victories in Washington, DC.

Kristin Murphy is ASCA’s assistant director of legislative affairs. Write her at

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42