Every year, ACEP’s Public Affairs team takes a deep look at legislative issues affecting emergency physicians to evaluate progress made on key priorities. After analyzing what was accomplished over the preceding year, it takes a detailed look at the new congressional landscape. For example, the 117th Congress marks a shift to a slim Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate after years of Republican majority under the Trump administration. The team takes those factors into account when planning its advocacy strategy. ACEP’s annual legislative and regulatory priorities are reviewed by ACEP’s Federal Government Affairs Committee and then presented for approval to the ACEP Board of Directors during its annual January meeting.
Explore This IssueACEP Now: Vol 40 – No 03 – March 2021
As 2020 demonstrated, strategic planning cannot account for all contingencies, and no one anticipated the unexpected pivot to the COVID-19 pandemic response that occurred in early 2020. Though COVID-19 dominated much of ACEP’s advocacy efforts, the year closed out with a frenzy of year-end legislation that addressed other important issues, including surprise billing, pain management, Medicare reimbursement, and more.
Let’s take a look at what was accomplished during the 116th Congress and what ACEP plans to focus its advocacy efforts on in the years ahead.
Key Accomplishments During the 116th Congress
When emergency physicians found themselves at the front lines of the pandemic, ACEP’s advocacy work shifted to focus on the critical federal resources needed to address a multitude of concerns around personal protective equipmet (PPE), testing, physician mental health, vaccinations, and other vital issues. Included in COVID-19 legislation that passed in 2020 were provisions that:
- Ensured full coverage by insurers of testing for and diagnosis of COVID-19
- Provided the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services with the flexibility to allow for payment of emergency services via telehealth
- Suspended Medicare sequestration
- Created a $100 billion Provider Relief Fund for which physician groups were eligible
- Provided additional federal liability protections for volunteer health care professionals during the COVID-19 emergency response
- Provided $22.4 billion for state testing, tracing, and COVID-19 mitigation programs
- Provided $20 billion for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to procure vaccines and therapeutics; provided nearly $9 billion to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and states for vaccine distribution; provided $3.25 billion for reinforcement of Strategic National Stockpile; and authorized a national campaign to increase awareness and knowledge of vaccine safety and effectiveness
- Provided $4.25 billion for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration mental health and substance use disorder programs
ACEP has been working for years on behalf of emergency physicians and their patients to ensure that Congress enacts a fair and transparent solution to the issue of surprise medical billing (SMB). SMB legislation rose to the surface again at the end of 2020 and was an important provision in the year-end legislative package. Details included: