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This week’s headlines:
Congressional action

Congress agrees to two-month SGR fix
On Dec. 23, after many congressional members had already returned to their districts for the holidays, Congress agreed to delay for two months the 27.4 percent cut in Medicare payments resulting from the flawed sustainable growth rate, or SGR, formula. Cuts had been set to begin Jan. 1. House and Senate leadership have since appointed conferees to reach a longer-term agreement for the expiring provisions, which, in addition to a temporary SGR fix, also includes the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits. Congress must now act before Feb. 29 to prevent the cuts.

This last minute congressional delay followed months of negotiations between Democrats and Republicans, as well as separate legislative attempts in December to provide a temporary fix to avoid the physician payment cuts. Unfortunately, political differences stonewalled this legislation as the deadline inched closer. The Academy extends thanks to all the members who have taken the time to contact their members of Congress. Please continue to urge Congress to use this opportunity over the next six weeks to permanently address the broken SGR formula and enact permanent reform to promote stability within the Medicare program.

Skin cancer research funding preserved in FY 2012 appropriations law
On Dec. 8, AADA joined other healthcare groups by signing onto a letter urging House and Senate appropriators to complete the fiscal year (FY) 2012 appropriations bill which includes funding for major cancer research programs. On Dec. 16, the bill passed out of both chambers and was signed into law by the President the following day. Funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will remain at the FY 2011 level of $6.1 billion, of which skin cancer is anticipated to receive $2 million. The National Institutes of Health will receive a 1 percent increase totaling $30.7 billion in funding and the National Cancer Institute will receive $5.1 billion, a .5 percent increase. At a time when many agencies received funding cuts, AADA was thankful Congress preserved or increased the funding of these important cancer research programs.

Federal agency focus

Different conversion factor in play during two-month reprieve from SGR cuts
Although the two-month postponement of the 27.4 percent sustainable growth rate (SGR) cut to the 2012 Physician Fee Schedule provides a zero percent update, some changes to the Medicare Fee Schedule established under the 2012 Physician Fee Schedule final rule will take effect during this period. The rule established a budget neutrality adjustment, which slightly increases the 2011 conversion factor from $33.9764 to $34.0376 for January and February. Other fee schedule changes addressed in the final rule specific to relative value units such as practice expense, geographic practice cost indices (GPCIs), electronic prescribing, and quality reporting programs will take effect as scheduled for dates of service beginning Jan. 1, 2012. As a result of these changes, dermatologists may see small variations in payment rates for some services.

AADA comments on the 2012 Physician Fee Schedule final rule
On Dec. 30, the Academy submitted a letter of comment to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in response to requirements outlined in the 2012 Physician Fee Schedule final rule. In the final rule, CMS upheld its request for AMA’s Specialty Society Relative Value Scale Update Committee (RUC) review of 70 multi-specialty high volume/high expenditure CPT codes that have not been reviewed for at least six years. Mohs codes 17311 and 17312, and destruction code 17004 are among the codes flagged for review. CMS is calling for assessment of the physician work and practice expense inputs for at least half of the 70 codes by July. In its comments, the AADA questioned CMS’ time frame for code review and recommended the agency prioritize the process in a sequential time-based manner, starting with codes that are absent of any physician work survey data or codes that were surveyed prior to 2000.

AADA comments on national drug shortage
The AADA recently submitted a comment letter to the Food and Drug Administration in response to the agency’s September 2011 public meeting to discuss the escalating drug shortage problem facing the health care community. The Academy’s letter highlighted the organization’s concern that ongoing drug shortages will continue to compromise the standard of care and put patients at risk.

State policy roundup

New Jersey Legislature passes cosmetic tax repeal
On Jan. 10, 2012, in the final hours of the 2011 legislative session, the New Jersey Legislature passed a bill to repeal the state’s 6 percent tax on cosmetic medical procedures. The measure was amended in the State Assembly to become effective July 1, 2012, and passed unanimously. The bill was then approved by the State Senate by a margin of 33-2. Upon receipt of the legislation, Gov. Christie will have 10 days to sign the bill or it will automatically be vetoed. The AADA is collaborating with the Dermatological Society of New Jersey and the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery Association to send a letter to the governor asking him to sign the legislation into law.

State legislative sessions begin with multiple priorities
The 2012 sessions of the majority of state legislatures opened this week, with more starting in the coming days. Most legislatures are in a “carry-over” session from 2011; therefore, legislation that did not have definitive action last year remains eligible for consideration. The AADA is tracking dermatology’s top priority issues in state legislatures and actions by state regulatory boards in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Members can to stay informed about state advocacy efforts of the AADA via resources in the state affairs section of aad.org. State societies and members seeking assistance with state advocacy efforts can contact the AADA Government Affairs Department at (202) 842-3555.

Political affairs – SkinPAC

SkinPAC has record year
2011 marks SkinPAC’s most successful year to date with more than $471,000 raised. This is a 21 percent increase over last year, when SkinPAC set its previous fundraising record. On its present trajectory, SkinPAC is headed toward becoming a $1 million-per-cycle PAC. SkinPAC’s political influence has expanded in Capitol Hill circles because of contributions from AADA members. The money raised shows key policymakers in Washington, D.C., that our members are paying attention and want to effect positive change for our patients, practices and the specialty.

SkinPAC will host Reception Row Party at 2012 Annual Meeting
SkinPAC will host a Reception Row After-Party at the 2012 AAD Annual Meeting. For those Annual Meeting attendees who aren’t ready to call it a night on Friday, March 16, 2011, the SkinPAC After-Party will start at 7 p.m. in San Diego Ballroom A of the San Diego Marriott and Marina. This will be just after the completion of other Reception Row events. Previous SkinPAC Receptions have been a big hit and this one is expected to be the same.

SkinPAC’s political purpose is to solicit and receive contributions to be used to make political campaign expenditures to those candidates for federal elective office, and other federal political committees, who demonstrate understanding and interest in the views and goals of the American Academy of Dermatology Association.

Contributions to SkinPAC are not deductible as charitable contributions for federal income tax purposes. SkinPAC cannot accept contributions from corporate accounts. All AADA members have the right to refuse to contribute without reprisal. Federal law prohibits us from accepting contributions from foreign nationals. Federal law requires us to use our best efforts to collect and report the name, physical address, occupation, and the name of the employer of individuals whose contributions exceed $200 in a calendar year.

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