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March 4, 2011


Washington Letter
March 4 , 2011

ATS Members Encouraged to Participate Pulmonary Function Test Survey

At the most recent AMA CPT Editorial Panel meeting, the ATS and our sister organization ACCP were successful in obtaining four new pulmonary function tests (PFT) codes for lung volumes, airway resistance and diffusing capacity for use beginning January 1, 2012. The next step in bringing these codes to fruition is to survey ATS members regarding the work, time and intensity of service associated with these new PFT codes. Additionally the ATS and ACCP will be surveying CPT 94060--bronchodilator responsiveness. These surveys are a necessary step in the AMA Specialty Society Relative Value Scale Update Committee (RUC) process and your participation is important.

We encourage ATS members who perform PFTs or the bronchodilator responsiveness test to participate in this effort. If you are willing to participate in the survey, please send an email to (codingquestions@thoracic.org). Please include “PFT Survey” in the subject line. In the text of the email please include;

Your full name;

Your practice address ;

Telephone number (including area code);

and E-mail address.

If you have questions or need additional information about the survey process, please contact Mr. Gary Ewart, senior director of ATS government relations at gewart@thoracic.org.


ATS Offering Free Coding Billing and Regulatory Compliance Assistance ATS Denver International Conference

The ATS is offering one-on-one coding, billing and regulatory compliance session at the ATS meeting in Denver. Diane Krier-Morrow, MBA, MPH, CCS-P-- the ATS Consultant for Coding and Reimbursement--will be available in Denver for free one-on-one discussions about correct coding, billing and regulatory compliance issues. This is the fifth year the ATS has provided this service to conference attendees. Mrs. Krier-Morrow is available to provide guidance on correct coding and billing for pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine procedures, give advice on participating in the various Medicare quality reporting programs and help resolve persistent problems with claims denials, and other regulatory compliance issues.

These sessions are by appointment only and will be held on:

Sunday, May 15 8 am – 3 pm

Monday, May 16 8 am – 3 pm

Tuesday, May 17 8 am – Noon

If you are interested in scheduling an appointment with Mrs. Krier-Morrow, please send an email to codingquestions@thoracic.org.


EPA Releases CAA Report

In related news, this week the Environmental Protection Agency released a report that estimates the health benefits of the Clean Act since 1990. The report estimates that it cost the economy $65 billion in 2010 to comply with the Clean Air Act, but that the Act yielded nearly $2 trillion in benefits--mostly from avoiding lost productivity and the cost of adverse outcomes. The report estimated that in 2010, the Clean Air Act resulted in preventing the following adverse health outcomes:

• 160,000 adult deaths from particle pollution

• 230 Infant deaths from particle pollution

• 4,300 deaths from ozone

• 130,000 heart attacks

• 86,000 emergency room visits

• 1.7 million asthma exacerbations

• 3.2 million missed school days

The EPA report estimates that the annual benefits continue to increase in 2020. The full report can be found at the EPA Web site: http://www.epa.gov/air/sect812/feb11/fullreport.pdf.

House Funding Bill Attacks EPA

Last month, the House passed a continuing resolution to provide federal funding for the remaining seven months of 2011 fiscal year. While much of the media attention has focused on the cuts contained in the House measure, the bill also included a number of policy provisions intended to weaken the EPA’s authority to control air pollution on the Clean Air Act. The House measure would prevent the EPA from:

• Developing, issuing or enforcing regulation on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases

• Conducting research on climate change

• Supporting voluntary programs that seek to reduce consumer GHG emissions

• Disclosing publicly large industrial sources of GHG emissions

While the above provisions all address climate change, the bill also limits the EPA’s authority to regulate more traditional pollutants such as:

• PM 10 – the EPA is barred from developing emissions standards for course particle pollution

• Air Toxics – the EPA is barred from updating emissions standards for cement kilns, major sources of mercury and other air toxic pollutants

• Offshore Pollution – bars the EPA appeals board from hearing citizen petitions regarding air pollution impact construction of Alaskan offshore developments.

The American Thoracic Society opposes the House bill. Among other things, it includes a provision that undermines the health-based standard of the Clean Air Act.

 Health Professional Letter in Support of the Clean Air Act

In response to these Congressional attacks on the Clean Air Act, the American Thoracic Society is encouraging all ATS members to add their name to a public letter to the President and to Congress urging support the Clean Air Act and the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to implement its health-based standards. 

Below is text of the letter.  Over 2,000 physicians have signed on the letter so far.  If you are interested in adding your support to the letter, please email Gary Ewart in the Washington Office of the American Thoracic Society gewart@thoracic.org  In the email subject line, please write Clean Air Act Letter. In the text of the email please indicate what state you reside in and how you would like your name to appear as a signatory to the  letter.

Clean Air Act Health Professional Sign On Letter

Dear President/Senator/Representative,

As health and medical professionals, we are keenly aware of the health impacts of air pollution.  Air pollution is linked to a wide range of health consequences including cancer, asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes.  The Clean Air Act guarantees all Americans, especially the most vulnerable, air that is safe and healthy to breathe.  Despite tremendous air pollution reductions, more progress is needed to fulfill this promise.  Please support the full implementation and enforcement of the Clean Air Act.  

Throughout its four decade history protecting the public from air pollution, the Clean Air Act has enjoyed strong bi-partisan support.  The original Clean Air Act and its subsequent amendments received overwhelming votes in Congress. This landmark public health law directed the Environmental Protection Agency to protect health and the environment from air pollution.   The result is saved lives and improved quality of life for millions of Americans.   But the job is not finished.  Communities across the nation still suffer from poor air quality. Low income families face the impacts of toxic air pollution every day. From smog causing asthma attacks to toxic mercury harming children’s neurological development, far too many people face a constant threat from the air they breathe and the impacts of climate change.

Please fulfill the promise of clean, healthy air for all Americans to breathe.  Support full implementation of the Clean Air Act and resist any efforts to weaken, delay or block progress toward a healthier future for all Americans.



Congress Passes Temporary FY2011 Spending Bill

This week, the House and Senate passed a short-term spending measure to prevent a federal government shutdown and fund government programs until March 18. The bill cuts spending by $4 billion by targeting earmarks and implementing some program cuts that President Obama has proposed in his FY 2012 budget.  The cuts included in the measure do not affect programs that the ATS monitors, such as the NIH and CDC. The President is expected to sign the bill before the March 4 expiration of the current CR.

Meanwhile, negotiations are ongoing between the House and the Senate over a final FY2011 spending package, with Republicans calling for passage of the House-passed bill containing up to $60 billion in spending cuts from FY2010 levels, including a proposed 5.2 percent cut to the NIH and a 17 percent cut to the CDC. Senate leaders have said that they expect that a compromise on a final FY2011 package will extend an additional two weeks after the new continuing resolution deadline of March 18, putting final approval of a spending package at the end of March. The ATS urges members to contact their two senators to urge their opposition to deep spending cuts to NIH and CDC.Click here to contact your Senators


ATS Advocates for Global TB Funding

This week, ATS and its partner the KNCV Foundation met with House and Senate members of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee to call for a sustained investment in global TB control through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The ATS and the KNCV Foundation are key members of the Tuberculosis Coalition for Technical Assistance (TBCTA), which provides technical assistance to strengthen tuberculosis control in twenty countries, including Indonesia, Nigeria and Khazakstan, through USAID. TBCTA’s efforts have expanded directly observed treatment (DOTS) to millions and have helped put these countries on the path to achieving case detection and treatment success targets under the Global Plan to Stop TB. In light of proposed cuts to USAID’s global health programs in FY2011 and FY2012, the ATS and KNCV urged members of Congress to maintain the U.S.’s leadership role on international tuberculosis control through appropriate funding of these programs.


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.