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January 7, 2011


Washington Letter
January 7, 2011

House Set to Vote on Healthcare Reform Repeal; Includes Amendment on Medicare Physician Payment Fix

The House of Representatives has scheduled a floor vote for January 12 on repeal of the healthcare reform law enacted last year, the Affordable Care Act (ACA). House floor debate on the bill, H.R. 2, which repeals the ACA in its entirety, will likely begin on January 11. An amendment, sponsored by Rep. Matheson (D-UT), was added to the bill late today, that requires House committees to draft legislation providing a permanent fix to the Medicare physician payment formula. The House’s action is viewed as symbolic of Republican opposition to the healthcare reform law as the Senate is not expected to hold a similar vote.


CMS Revokes Voluntary End of Life Benefit

This week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that they were rescinding the policy that allowed physicians to address end-of-life planning discussions in the annual Medicare wellness visit.  CMS’s stated reason for revoking the coverage was because the policy was included in the final Medicare physician fee schedule rule and was not proposed in the initial proposed rule – thereby denying the public the opportunity to comment on the merits of voluntary end of life planning.  Most observers belief CMS revoked the policy in a poor attempt to avoid reopening the “death panels” media frenzy.

The American Thoracic Society is disappointed that CMS chose to revoke this important coverage policy.  The ATS has sent a letter to CMS expressing our disappointment and noting that allowing for voluntary end of life planning discussions will likely help patients and providers ensure that end of life care is provided in a way that is consistent with patient wishes.


The Washington Letter is written by the American Thoracic Society government relations office and emailed to all ATS members living in the United States. The letter keeps clinicians, scientists, and patients abreast of legislative, judicial, and regulatory issues in pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine. Each week's edition is archived on the ATS Web site, www.thoracic.org. If you have any questions or one more information about becoming involved in advocacy, please contact the ATS Washington office at 202-296-9770.