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This week’s headlines:

Political affairs – SkinPAC

SkinPAC raises record amount, nears $1 million goal
SkinPAC has broken another new record by raising more than $997,000 for the election cycle and is in striking distance of its $1 million goal, with hopes to see AADA President Daniel Siegel, MD, fulfill his head-shave challenge. If SkinPAC raises $1 million for the election cycle, Dr. Siegel has pledged to publicly shave his head and beard at the Summer Academy Meeting and anyone who gives $5,000 will get a swipe of the razor. In an effort to raise as much money possible, SkinPAC Chair Sandra Read, MD, and the SkinPAC Board of Advisors will host a benefit dinner during the Summer Academy Meeting in Boston. For more information about the dinner or to contribute to SkinPAC, please call Abigail Osborne at (202) 712-2604, or visit www.SkinPAC.org.

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.

Congressional action

Senators urge FDA to act on tanning bed reclassification
On July 31, Sens. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) sent a letter to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, MD, requesting an update on the status of tanning bed reclassification. Currently tanning beds are a Class I device, the same class as cotton balls and tongue depressors. In 2010 the FDA held a hearing regarding the current status of tanning bed classification at which the Academy provided testimony. The expert panel unanimously agreed that the Class I classification was inadequate considering the great risk tanning beds pose to the public. In spite of the panel’s recommendation that the classification of tanning beds be increased and the extensive proof that tanning beds greatly increase one’s risk of melanoma, the FDA has yet to change their classification. The AADA applauds Sens. Reed and Reid for their efforts to encourage the FDA to act on this important issue and will monitor the FDA’s progress moving forward.

AADA urges members to engage candidates
A new online resource is available to assist members who are interested in engaging candidates for public office on issues of importance to dermatology and dermatology patients. Included are sample dermatology-related questions to ask during campaign events, resources to find out more about elections in your area, and information about how the AADA can help you set up meetings with your members of Congress at their local offices. Visit the Academy website or email Blake McDonald to discuss how the AADA can help you get involved.

Federal agency focus

Dermatologist named chair of RUC subcommittee
Scott A.B. Collins, MD, the current American Academy of Dermatology representative to the AMA Relative Value Scale Update Committee (RUC), which makes recommendations to CMS on the relative value of CPT codes that underpin the current fee-for-service payment system, has been appointed to chair the RUC’s Research Subcommittee for 2012-2014. The RUC Research Subcommittee makes key decisions on the methodology to value codes. The Academy congratulates Dr. Collins on this appointment to a key leadership role at the RUC.

CMS announces new start date for RAC prepayment review demo
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced its previously delayed Recovery Audit Prepayment Review Demonstration will begin on Aug. 27. The demonstration will allow Recovery Audit Contractors (RACs) to review claims before they are paid to ensure that the provider complied with all payment rules.

AADA staff is engaged with CMS on this issue and has been advised that the demonstration will retain the same purpose and focus as initially proposed in November 2011. Accordingly, the demonstration is expected to target certain inpatient hospital claims associated with short hospital stays — none of which are dermatology-related. The demonstration will be conducted in 11 states with either high claims volumes or high error rates: California, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas. Additional information on the demonstration is available on the CMS website.

Private payer activity

United Healthcare revises laboratory policy
United Healthcare has added dermatologists to its laboratory rebundling policy, which had previously restricted payment of key pathology codes to pathologists. Effective in the fourth quarter of 2012, dermatologists will be eligible for reimbursement when reporting clinical and surgical pathology consultation codes (CPT 80500-80502 and 88321-88325). Prior to this policy change, only pathologists were eligible for reimbursement for these codes.

Blue Cross focuses on consumer transparency
The AADA has been made aware of a national Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) initiative to enhance consumer transparency in the quality and cost of care through its Blue National Doctor and Hospital Finder website. BCBSA began phase 1 of this initiative July 23 and will continue rolling out its plan through 2014. Relevant to dermatology, this initiative will include a quality measurement and star system, a patient satisfaction survey, and recognition for participating in quality improvement programs: BCBSA refers to these initiatives as the Physician Quality Measurement (PQM), the Patient Review of Physicians (PRP), and the Blue Physician Recognition (BPR) programs, respectively. BCBSA has some prescriptive language on these programs but elements will vary state to state. The AADA is in the process of gathering more information and actively working with other state and medical societies to understand this program to better advocate on behalf of dermatologists.

Dermatology remains exempt from Aetna in-office pathology lab accreditation policy
Recently, there has been confusion regarding Aetna’s policy exempting dermatologists and dermatopathologists from additional in-office pathology accreditation. The Academy has worked closely with Aetna on this issue and Aetna has confirmed that there are no new changes to their policy and that dermatologists are still exempt from this in-office pathology billing policy. Aetna articulated this exemption for dermatologists and dermatopathologists in a letter dated May 30. However, confusion resulted when a letter dated July 10 and intended for all other specialties was erroneously mailed to several dermatologists. Aetna has recorded a phone message — which can be heard by calling (215) 775-2437 — reinforcing this policy and will be posting this information on its website. Academy members who suspect their practices may have received the wrong letter or have questions about how Aetna’s in-office pathology billing policy applies to them are encouraged to call Aetna’s National Lab Team at (215) 775-2437.

State policy roundup

Missouri’s highest court strikes down caps on non-economic damages
The Missouri Supreme Court overturned a provision of the state’s 2005 tort reform law that imposed a $350,000 cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. The court reasoned that the cap infringed on the right to trial by jury. According to the Missouri State Medical Association, the number of lawsuits filed against physicians decreased by nearly 58 percent, approximately 1,000 physicians entered the Missouri workforce, and a $27 million decrease in insurance premiums resulted since the bipartisan legislation was enacted.

Massachusetts enacts health care spending reform bill
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick signed legislation that seeks to reduce health care costs, foster innovation of alternative payment methodologies, improve quality, and increase access. While a thorough analysis of S.2400 and its implications for dermatology remain to be conducted, the legislation includes the following provisions:

  • Sets statewide targets for annual increases in health care costs;
  • Providers decide whether they want to participate in alternative payment methodologies. However fee-for-service is still a payment option;
  • Providers are not required to become an accountable care organization (ACO); a newly created commission will set standards for and certify ACOs;
  • The Medicaid program, the state’s employee health care program, and all other state-funded health care programs must transition to new health care payment methodologies;
  • Health care provider systems must register with the state and report regularly on financial performance, market share, cost trends, and quality measures; and
  • Patients are authorized to designate physician assistants as their primary care providers.

2013 AADA State Advocacy Grant applications sought
The AADA is now accepting applications for the 2013 State Advocacy Grant Program. The program provides financial assistance to state dermatology societies for the advancement of their health policy initiatives. State societies applying for the grant must submit an application and all required supporting materials by Sept. 30. Learn more about the State Advocacy Grant Program and download your application today by visiting the state affairs Web page.

New York requires parental consent for body piercings
On July 30, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed AB 10095 requiring parental consent for body piercing and tattoos. Under the law, teens younger than 18 must provide written parental consent prior to receiving body piercings. This is the same requirement as that for minors seeking a tattoo. The new law, which will take effect Oct. 30, will better protect teens from infections and blood-borne disease.

Upcoming events

Register now for the 2012 AADA Legislative Conference, Sept. 9 – 11, Washington, D.C.
The AADA is pleased to invite the entire Academy membership to register for the 2012 Legislative Conference, Sept. 9 – 11 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott, 10 minutes from the U.S. Capitol. The Legislative Conference is a unique blend of didactic and interactive advocacy training sessions, political debate, and the direct lobbying of your members of Congress. Conference attendees learn about critical health policy issues from national health policy experts, political insiders, and AADA advocacy leaders. A keynote address will be delivered by former CMS Administrator Mark McClellan, MD, PhD. However, the most powerful aspect of the Legislative Conference is your ability to build and strengthen personal relationships with your members of Congress and their staff.

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