Advocacy in Action

Follow an ASC bill on its journey to becoming a law BY KRISTIN MURPHY


SCA and ASCs across the coun- try are on the precipice of a major

legislative victory this year: the adoption of the Electronic Health Fairness Act. In 2015, the US House of Representatives and the US Senate unanimously passed slightly different versions of the act which, if enacted, will provide relief to ASC physicians who face penalties due to Medicare’s meaningful use require- ments tied to electronic health records (EHR) systems. As this article goes to press, Congress is reconciling the two versions of the bill; the reconciled bill must be passed before it can be signed into law by President Barack Obama. “Given the divisive and often chaotic

political climate that exists in Washing- ton, DC, in recent years, developing and passing bipartisan legislation is a rare suc- cess,” says Heather Falen Ashby, ASCA’s deputy director of advocacy. The success this pro-ASC legislation has enjoyed was


achieved through a strategic advocacy campaign waged by ASCA, its members and ASC champions in Congress.

The Problem Arises In 2009, Congress passed the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act to incentivize Medicare providers to adopt and use EHR systems. Unfortunately, ASCs were not eligible for HITECH funds to develop EHR systems, and no certified EHR technology (CEHRT) is currently available for ASC encoun- ters. Under the program, physicians had to attest by October 1, 2014, that they were “meaningful users” of an EHR by reporting that 50 percent of their Medi- care patient encounters occurred in a setting with CEHRT. Those who did not attest would be penalized with reduc- tions to their Medicare professional fees in 2015.

As the “meaningful use” program

deadlines loomed, ASCA worked with its members and industry stakehold- ers to identify potential ways to protect ASC physicians.

A Solution Emerges ASCA’s Government Affairs Committee and advocacy staff decided that legisla- tion that would exempt ASC physicians from impending Medicare penalties was a necessary step in solving the problem. The first step in ASCA’s legisla-

tive solution was to find a partner in Congress who serves on the Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdic- tion over Medicare program policy. ASCA analyzed its list of champions and identified

Representative Diane

Black (R-TN), a former nurse and staunch supporter of ASCs. Next, ASCA worked with its grass-

roots activists and the Tennessee Ambu- latory Surgery Center Association to present the problem to Black and ask for her help. She immediately recog- nized the issue facing ASC physicians

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