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Advocacy Newsletter - July 19, 2012

ACC testifies on the Hill … again! For the second time in two weeks, the ACC headed to Capitol Hill to testify before a Congressional committee. Just this morning, Jerry D. Kennett, MD, MACC, testified before the House Small Business Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and Regulations on the impacts of cardiologists moving to hospital integration or merging into large practices, with particular attention to small and solo practices. This was a vital opportunity for the College to share how a combination of factors has resulted in as many as 70 percent of ACC's physician members now in hospital affiliated practices and FITs veering away from joining private practice. Kennett shared how key drivers of this rapid evolution, including Medicare physician payment rates falling behind actual practice costs, direct cuts to Medicare physician reimbursement and increased administrative and regulatory burdens, have stifled options for physicians, leading them to find other practice models. He urged Congress to protect remaining private practices by averting the nearly 30 percent scheduled Medicare reimbursement through repealing the sustainable growth rate formula and providing stable Medicare physician payments for several years to allow the development of new delivery and payment models. These issues will be explored during the upcoming 2012 Legislative Conference taking place Sept. 9-11 in Washington, D.C. Registration is now open for the conference as well as an ACCPAC dinner featuring Washington Post columnist George Will. Visit CardioSource.org for full coverage of the hearing, including a video interview with Dr. Kennett.

What is testifying before Congress really like? Following last week's Senate Finance Committee hearing regarding Medicare physician payments, W. Douglas Weaver, MD, MACC, stopped by the ACC in Touch Blog to share his experience testifying on the Hill. "I cannot stress enough how critical the discussion on Medicare physician payment is to the sustainability of our health care system," he said. "Although I was prepared to provide suggestions to improving value over the next several years; I was surprised to be asked about what we can do this year which will dramatically reduce Medicare costs beginning in January." The ACC had the opportunity to share tried-and-true approaches to improving quality and efficiency while reducing costs. Read the blog post.

Second new obesity drug gets the green light. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the prescription weight-loss pill Qsymia (phentermine and topiramate), previously known as Qnexa, this week. However, the drug's manufacturer is required by the Agency to "conduct 10 postmarketing requirements, including a long-term cardiovascular outcomes trial to assess the effect of Qsymia on the risk for major adverse cardiac events such as heart attack and stroke." Obesity drugs have been in the spotlight in recent months, with the Agency reviewing two new medications vying for the market over the past few weeks. On June 27, the FDA gave a nod to lorcaserin hydrochloride (Belviq), making it the first prescription weight-loss pill to be approved in more than a decade. Read the full article.

Room for improvement? When it comes to reducing hospital readmissions a study published July 18 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC) found substantial variability in hospital practices to reduce readmissions of patients with heart failure (HF) or acute myocardial infarction (AMI). The study's authors suggest that their findings underscore opportunities for further education around successful best practices, particularly in the areas of medication adherence and post-discharge management. Get the details, including how to become involved in the ACC's Hospital to Home initiative.

New guideline released! On July 16, the ACC Foundation (ACCF) and the American Heart Association (AHA) released a focused update of the guideline for the management of patients with unstable angina (UA)/non-ST-elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI). The document addresses recent research and approvals of new drugs like ticagrelor and replaces the previous update published in 2011. Read more about the key recommendations.

Blogging away! It's been a busy week for the ACC in Touch blog. Check out the following posts on topics ranging from medication adherence to an update on the ACC's CEO search.

  • Collaborative efforts to target poor medication adherence are explored in the latest blog post by BOG Chair Dipti Itchhaporia, MD, FACC. Check out the College's "Don't Take a Vacation from Your Medication" campaign aimed at curbing the trend of medication non-adherence. In alignment with the campaign, CardioSmart just released a free Med Reminder app that helps patients take their medications as prescribed and acts as a personal medication record for seamless communication with health care providers.
  • In another recent post, ACC President, William Zoghbi, MD, FACC, gives an update on the College's CEO Search and shares how ACC leaders are making an impact around the world. Get up to speed.
  • Zoghbi also blogged live from Bicester, England, where he represented ACC and CardioSmart as a torchbearer during the Olympic Torch Relay. Read about this exciting experience.

Assessing how the ICD-10 transition will affect your practice: The ICD-10 final rule has yet to be released, but continuing on the path to ICD-10 implementation is essential. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the new system will affect all aspects of how you provide care, including registration, referrals, software/hardware upgrades and clinical documentation. Conducting an impact assessment can help you determine how the new coding will impact your organization. CMS recommends that you consider how documentation changes, reimbursement structures, systems and vendor contracts, business practices and testing will be impacted with the new system. Also, Aug. 1 marks the date that all HIPAA covered entities must be compliant with Version 5010. Visit CardioSource.org for more details and stay tuned for developments on the ICD-10 implementation timeline.