How NASS plans to advocate for physicians and patients this year


Prior authorization remains a key focus for the North American Spine Society's advocacy efforts this year. The organization also has its eyes on enhancing a bill to protect patients from surprise medical billing.

NASS President Eeric Truumees, MD, and advocacy council Chair Phil Schneider, MD, told Becker's Spine Review about their plans.

Note: Responses were lightly edited for style.

Question: What are key areas of focus for advocacy for physicians in 2021?

Dr. Eeric Truumees and Dr. Phil Schneider: We surveyed our members two months ago, so we know exactly what our physicians want. Stabilizing Medicare reimbursement is the No. 1 issue. Practically, this requires removing the sequester cuts, which we just successfully accomplished. Now we want to extend this beyond 2021.

Second, we have worked on the prior authorization bill. Now, with the majority of the House as co-sponsors, it is time to get it passed. The goal here is to reduce the increasing burden on both office staff and physicians who have been wasting time on prior authorization which should be routinely approved.

We are also working on medical liability reform and legislative issues to preserve fee-for-service medicine. We are supporting efforts to permanently codify the telehealth payments that have been widely embraced during the pandemic.

We are strongly advocating for additional Graduate Medical Education funding due to the shortage of physicians in the workforce. We hope to include this in President Biden’s infrastructure legislation.

Q: What are key areas of focus for patient advocacy in 2021?

ET and PS: Regarding patient advocacy, we successfully improved patient protections in surprise medical billing. The current legislation, while not exactly what medicine wanted, is much better than earlier versions. This effort keeps patients "out of the middle" and sets up an independent arbitration system between the physician and the insurance company. We are working with HHS to finalize the regulations to enhance the bill.

Q: Where do you predict the biggest challenges for advocacy? What successes do you predict?

ET and PS: After a COVID-19 lull, we predict great success in advocacy over the next year. We had to pause our fundraising during the pandemic since physicians were hit hard economically. We restarted our PAC fundraising with our most successful quarter ever. Regarding challenges, we are still navigating some of the bad feelings and chaos that occurred on Jan. 6 at the Capitol.

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