Recently, I attended the ACG Governors’ Fly-In and Board of Governors Meeting, in Washington, D.C. This was an exciting time to be in our nation’s capital. I would like to share with you the following updates.
On Thursday, April 30th, nearly 50 ACG Governors made more than 200 congressional visits on Capitol Hill to promote the legislative priorities of the College and its members. These visits were coordinated by the outstanding ACG staff.
The legislative priority of our visits was to build support for the newly introduced SCREEN Act (S. 1079 & H.R. 2035), whose goals include to remove barriers in colorectal cancer screening and to tie sections to the “80% by 2018” public awareness campaign. The SCREEN Act eliminates cost-sharing both when a screening colonoscopy turns therapeutic (i.e., when a polyp is removed during screening colonoscopy) and treats as part of “screening” the required follow-up diagnostic colonoscopy upon a positive finding of another recommended colorectal screening test (i.e., FIT, sigmoidoscopy). The SCREEN Act also maintains current Medicare reimbursement for colonoscopy until 2018 for those providers participating in a quality improvement registry. The SCREEN Act is the only legislation pending before Congress which specifically addresses the threat to colonoscopy reimbursement. The SCREEN Act would also establish an innovative Medicare demonstration project which allows for an office visit to discuss colonoscopy preparation and patient questions. This pre-screening visit would also serve as an opportunity for Medicare beneficiaries to discuss Hepatitis C screening with their provider. Offering age appropriate Hepatitis C screening at the same time as colonoscopy meets two important public health imperatives in the same encounter. The SCREEN Act makes this even easier by providing an alternative pathway to current Medicare rules, where a referral is first required specifically from a primary care physician prior to Hepatitis C screening.
It is so important that our voice is heard in Washington. I encourage you to contact your representatives and urge them to support the SCREEN Act. You can quickly and easily do this at the ACG website by clicking this link and logging in: http://www.capwiz.com/acg/home/.
We thanked congressional offices for their support of the recent SGR reform bill. This historic bill replaces SGR once and for all and stabilizes reimbursement to physicians.
We also discussed ACG’s support for the “80% by 2018” Colorectal Cancer Screening Campaign. Colorectal cancer remains the second highest cause of cancer death in the U.S. Because colorectal cancer is preventable, as recently demonstrated by a 30% decrease in incidence due to screening, over 200 organizations, including the ACG, CDC, American Cancer Society, HHS, the other GI societies and state and local governments, have come together to support an initiative to increase colorectal screening rates from the current 64% to 80%, by the year 2018.
On Friday, May 1, I attended the Board of Governors meeting, led by ACG Chair of the Board of Governors, Immanuel Ho, MD, FACG. Topics discussed included updates on duodenoscope infections, fixing maintenance of certification, and SGR repeal and the new payment system. Jacqueline Gaulin from the ACG office updated the Governors on the new enhancements to the ACG GI Circle, including an “Ask the Governors” feature which allows ACG members to post a question to their Governor on the GI Circle. I encourage you to use this feature to post any questions or issues that may arise in your area.
I hope you are planning to attend ACG’s 2015 Annual Scientific Meeting and Postgraduate Course, October 16 – 21, 2015 in Honolulu, Hawaii. The programs’ speakers and sessions promise to deliver another set of outstanding courses. As always, please contact me with any issues or concerns that you would like the College to address.
Richard K. Sterling, MD, FACG
ACG Governor for VIRGINIA