To say it has been an interesting (the science—and the memes!), tumultuous (the politics) and heartbreaking (the pandemic and social injustice) year is an understatement. There have been moments of grace and inspiration that I hope have kept everyone going. As we look to 2021, we take lessons from our experiences in 2020. Washington, D.C., is buzzing, with a new president, new members in the House and Senate, a new Congress (117th) and more COVID-19 legislation negotiations.
2020 Year in Review
A colossal thank you to our Government Affairs Committee members, patient advocates, physicians and interprofessional team member advocates for taking advocacy virtual last year during a pandemic and making it a huge success. I am so grateful for the ACR staff and advocates for taking a leap of faith and jumping all in to virtual advocacy. There were 3,061 emails sent to Congress on rheumatology issues, 2,052,710 #Act4Arthritis Twitter impressions and 285 meetings with legislators and ACR/ARP volunteers and patients.
Our ACR advocacy team in D.C. (Lennie Shewmaker, JD, director of congressional affairs; Amanda Grimm Wiegrefe, MScHSRA, director of regulatory affairs; and Dan Redinger, manager of advocacy and policy affairs) and in our Atlanta office (Adam Cooper, senior director of government affairs, and Joseph Cantrell, JD, senior manager of state affairs) will continue their efforts on behalf of ACR/ARP members, along with Rachel Myslinski, vice president of practice, advocacy and quality, and the rest of her team.
Add “make a RheumPAC investment” to your to-do list as a new year’s resolution! These funds allow for nonpartisan meetings with lawmakers working on issues that impact rheumatology.
2021 Physician Fee Schedule Final Rule
The win: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) finalized the 2021 Physician Fee Schedule Final Rule, with rheumatologists seeing an estimated boost in reimbursement of approximately 14-15%, to start in 2021. This was the second largest increase among all medical specialties.
Context: Each year, the CMS releases rules on physician reimbursement. They use recommendations from the American Medical Association’s Relative Value Scale Update Committee to guide decisions on how to pay physicians from a single pot of money. The CMS valued certain Current Procedural Terminology codes higher, including those often used by some subspecialties, and modified documentation requirements to reduce administrative burdens. In this zero-sum game, other specialties were not so fortunate, with losses in surgery, radiology and physical therapy. Given the pandemic and all practices struggling, recent COVID-19 legislation balanced the cuts some providers may see by adding $3 billion in new money, to increase Medicare Fee Schedule payments across the board by 3.75% in CY 2021.