Capitol Hill 2017
All you need to know for Hill Day
On Wednesday, ACR members head to Capitol Hill to discuss issues at the intersection of patient care and legislation. Here are the big issues members raised with their representatives during ACR 2017.
Doctor Ferrara Goes to Washington
Steve L. Ferrara, MD, FACR, began the session by rallying the crowd. In 2018, Ferrara will be running for the House seat in District 9 of Arizona. Ferrara has had a long relationship with leadership and policy, including serving as the CMO for the U.S. Navy and as a Congressional Robert Wood Johnson Fellow, where he helped craft legislation aimed at repealing the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula. Ferrara explained why he was interested in running for Congress, including his goal of representing radiologist and patient interests and giving medicine a seat at the legislative table — the same reasons radiologists head to the Hill each year.
CT Colonography Screening
Radiologists will be asking their representatives to support the coverage of CT Colonography (CTC) in Medicare patients via HR 1298: The CT Colonography Screening for Colorectal Cancer Act of 2017. In December of 2016, the USPSTF released its final recommendations for colon cancer screening. They assigned an “A” grade for screening for adults age 50 to 75 and listed CTC as one of the screening options. However, although an “A” grade requires private insurers to cover CTC with no cost sharing, the same does not apply to Medicare.
Colorectal cancer is a leading cause of cancer-related deaths for both men and women in the U.S. Early detection can save lives, and screening is key. CTC holds a variety of benefits for patients, among them being less invasive and much more cost effective.
Radiologists know the benefits of preventative screening. Preventative screening enables physicians to catch deadly diseases at their earliest (and most treatable) stage; this leads to more fiscal responsibility since the disease is more easily treated. Preventative screening also reduces morbidity. The list goes on and on.
However, these life-saving practices are only effective if patients can access services. Often, patients avoid screenings because of cost. Currently, this barrier is due to Section 2713 of the ACA. This section requires that all screening procedures recommended to be offered to patients by USPSTF, Centers for Disease Control, or the Health Resources and Service Administration must be covered in all forms of private insurance (e.g., policies offered both in the individual market and via employers). This includes mammograms, CTC, and Low-Dose CT lung cancer screening.
However, one of the goals of the current administration is to repeal the ACA. On the table right now is H.R. 1628, the American Health Care Act, championed by President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan. Although H.R. 1628 does not affect Section 2713, during negotiations in the House of Representatives, the Freedom Caucus floated an amendment to completely repeal Title I of the ACA, which includes both Section 2713. Quality patient care requires that screenings be protected. This year, ACR members will ask their representatives to keep Section 2713 intact.
NIH Funding Cuts
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is a valuable resource for the health care community. Comprised of 27 institutes and centers, the NIH has been the source of important research, including such studies as the National Lung Screening Trial (completed by ACRIN® and the National Cancer Institute, an agency under the NIH).
The NIH typically receives funding through the appropriations process, driven by Congress. Although funding levels can be requested by the president, Congress has the ultimate say. Currently, President Trump’s FY 2018 budget proposal cuts the NIH by nearly 20 percent ($5.8 billion). Removing NIH funding will have critical effects for the country, including less research (leading to disease prevention and improved health) and limiting the ability to respond to public health crises. Radiologists at the Hill will ask their representatives to support FY 2018 funding for NIH at $36 billion.
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