Washington Update - October 2011: Page 2 of 2
AGS’ Alan Lazaroff, MD, Appointed to RUC As Committee Considers Request to Designate a Seat for Geriatrics
AGS Public Policy Committee member Alan Lazaroff, MD, was appointed to the Administrative Subcommittee of the Relative Value Scale Update Committee (RUC) during the summer. Lazaroff has been AGS’ advisor to the RUC, which is administered by the American Medical Association, since 2008. One of the items on the RUC’s agenda is how to respond to calls for structural and procedural changes in the committee proposed by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). In a letter to the RUC this summer, AAFP supported designating a seat for geriatric medicine on the committee, something for which AGS has long advocated.
AGS Recommends Changes to “Physician Compare” Website
In another letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the AGS recently outlined several recommendations regarding the public reporting of information about physicians on the agency’s new Physician Compare Website, which is expected to go live in January 2013.
The Physician Compare site will be modeled after CMS’s Hospital Compare Website, which allows users to compare hospitals based on quality and other factors. Physician Compare will also include, among other things, information regarding whether a physician has or has not participated in CMS’ Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) initiative and, if so, whether he or she has reported successfully. In its letter to CMS, the AGS recommended that:
• CMS include a disclaimer on the site stating that the PQRS is a voluntary program and that there are valid reasons why a physician may not have participated and why a participating physician may not have successfully reported.
• Physicians have the option of updating or adding to their information on the Website; for example, by adding a link from the site to their own Website.
• CMS work with physicians to ensure they understand the implications of the self-designated specialty in terms of data collection and analysis, and the possibility that it could contribute to misleading, inaccurate, or confusing findings.
• Quality measures account for comorbidities and assess aspects of healthcare associated with multiple health problems.
• Providers not be penalized when they honor a patient’s preferences and cultural or religious beliefs regarding care.
• CMS continue to encourage the development of improved measures tailored toward the care of patients with multiple, chronic conditions and consider developing protocols for geriatric measures reporting.
Budget talks bogged down in the House as September came to a close, but the Senate Appropriations Committee moved forward, proposing funding Title VII Geriatrics Health Professions and Title VIII Comprehensive Geriatrics Education for Nurses programs at the same levels in 2012 as were provided this year. Stepping up its efforts to ensure that geriatrics teaching and research funding is preserved, the AGS launched an informational campaign and call-in to remind lawmakers how essential this funding is. The society also reached out to lawmakers likely to play key roles in budgetary decisions, urging them to support these crucial elder health programs.