Congress Passes One Year SGR “Patch”

Congress has passed H.R. 4203, the “Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014,” by voice vote. The bill prevents a 24% cut in reimbursements for physicians treating Medicare patients on April 1, 2014 and replaces it with a 0.5% update (through December 31, 2014) and a 0% update from January 1 until April 1, 2015. President Obama is expected to sign the bill. The bill represents an acknowledgement that the consensus, bipartisan approach to permanent repeal of the SGR formula will not be accomplished this year due to lack of agreement on a package of offsets.

The legislation includes several provisions regarding quality measurement and payment reductions for computed tomography services provided in physician offices and hospital outpatient departments starting in 2016. The language was “borrowed” from the original SGR repeal legislation introduced earlier this year. The bill also borrowed language requiring appropriate-use criteria to be consulted for advanced imaging (this does not include echo, by statutory definition) and prior authorization for physicians who refer an unusually high number of patients for advanced imaging services only.

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SGR Repeal Legislation Introduced

The “SGR Repeal and Medicare Provider Payment Modernization Act of 2014” bill was introduced in the House on February 6. This proposed language was agreed to by the Energy & Commerce, Ways & Means, and Senate Finance committees to repeal the SGR. The bill includes policy provisions; however the policy extenders and financial offsets are still to be negotiations.

A copy of the bill, a summary of the bill and an official section-by-section summary of the legislation can be found here.

DRASTIC CUTS TO HOSPITAL OUTPATIENT CARDIAC ULTRASOUND PROPOSED

Congress is now seriously considering funding the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) Repeal bill in part with a 60% reduction in Medicare payment to hospital outpatient departments for echocardiography services, to the levels paid in physicians’ offices. Adoption of this cut would jeopardize the quality of echocardiography services provided in hospitals, jeopardize the jobs and working conditions of cardiac sonographers employed by hospitals, and put many hospital echo labs in the “red.”  Read more here.

ASE Review Course’s preliminary program is now available

Join us at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown Hotel on May 11-13, 2014 to work one-on-one with the experts and gain the confidence needed for taking the National Board of Echocardiography, Inc.™  ASCeXAM® and ReASCE® examinations. In a recent survey, 97% of Review Course attendees said they passed the boards! View the preliminary program here and learn more by visiting www.asecho.org/ReviewCourse.

The fall issue of ECHO is now available!

The fall issue of ASE’s member news source, ECHO, is now available online.  This issue takes a 360 degree view of echocardiography.  Here’s a glimpse of what’s inside:

  • ASE Asks the Executive Committee: “What Advice Would you Offer to Someone Entering Your Field?”
  • Thinking about retirement? ASE’s investment advisors talk about what you should be thinking about now.
  • Practice management information from MedAxiom, IAC Echocardiography, and more.
  • Creating a ‘State-of-the-Art’ Echocardiography Center in Lagos, Nigeria

Be on the lookout for this engaging, informational, and entertaining news source landing in your mailbox soon. This is just another way ASE remains dedicated to pushing the field of echocardiography forward.  Click here to start reading the new ECHO today.