Published 12/20/2023

AAOS Leaders Advocate for Legislation to Protect Patients and the Profession at Combined NOLC/Fall

As the adage goes, “If you’re not at the table, you’re probably on the menu.” In pursuit of a seat at the table, AAOS members traveled from around the country to Washington, D.C., on Sept. 17 through 21 for the third annual Combined National Orthopaedic Leadership Conference (NOLC)/Fall Meeting. During the event, AAOS members met with more than 350 congressional members to advocate for policies that will positively impact the profession of orthopaedics and increase patients’ access to care.

Attendees—including the AAOS Board of Directors, Board of Councilors, Board of Specialty Societies, and other leaders—began the conference by connecting with their peers and other experts who spoke about key issues, including the state of Medicare, the need for prior authorization reform, and emerging concerns in medical liability.

Eager to make a difference, AAOS members spent the day on Capitol Hill meeting with members of Congress to discuss healthcare advocacy priorities that will shape the future of orthopaedics. The discussions were focused on reducing the burdens associated with prior authorization, tying changes to Medicare physician reimbursements to inflation, protecting healthcare professionals against assault and intimidation, and lifting the ban on physician-led hospitals.

Improving access to high-quality care
Two bipartisan bills pertaining to limitations put on Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries are on the table to help patients get the care they need, when they need it. Currently, prior authorization is required for many procedures and medications in Medicare, Medicare Advantage, and commercial health insurance, and this can delay necessary medical care and negatively influence patient outcomes.

The Getting Over Lengthy Delays in Care as Required by Doctors Act of 2023, or the GOLD Card Act (H.R. 4968), would exempt physicians who in the previous year received approval for at least 90 percent of their prior authorization requests from the prior authorization approval process for Medicare Advantage.

Additionally, participants spoke of the numerous benefits of physician-led hospitals. In 2010, the Affordable Care Act included a provision that strictly prohibits any new physician-led hospital from participating in Medicare or Medicaid. AAOS believes this provision harmed competition and calls for it to be lifted to ensure that Medicare patients have access to the high-quality healthcare provided by these hospitals. The Patient Access to Higher Quality Care Act of 2023 (H.R. 977/S. 470) would repeal the restrictions on expansion and new construction of
physician-led hospitals.

Tying reimbursement to inflation
Physicians are the only part of the healthcare system who do not receive an annual, inflation-based payment update​. When adjusted for inflation, physician reimbursement declined by 26 percent from 2001 to 2023​. To help fix Medicare’s broken payment system, AAOS is advocating for the Strengthening Medicare for Patients and Providers Act (H.R. 2474), which would address payment uncertainty and close the gap between physician reimbursements and the rising costs of running a medical practice by providing an annual Medicare physician payment update tied to inflation as measured by the Medicare Economic Index.

“This is a major problem, as physicians are falling behind on inflation, not to mention we are now facing Medicare reimbursement cuts—all because physician pay is tied to the amount Congress allots to Medicare,” said Adam Bruggeman, MD, FAAOS, FAOA, chair of the AAOS Advocacy Council. “We’re optimistic that change is on the horizon as Medicare payment reform is gaining momentum on Capitol Hill. This is a huge testament to our volunteers’ advocacy efforts and contributions the Political Action Committee of the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons.”

Protecting the safety of healthcare professionals
Over the past few years, there has been a steady rise in workplace violence incidents against healthcare workers. To protect them, AAOS members are advocating for the Safety from Violence for Healthcare Employees (SAVE) Act (H.R. 2584) by encouraging congressional members to introduce a companion bill in the Senate.

If passed, this bill would establish federal, criminal penalties for those who knowingly assault or intimidate hospital employees or those contracted by a hospital. This includes exceptions for individuals who may be mentally incapacitated due to illness or substance use. AAOS is also advocating for the government to authorize $25 million in grant funding over 10 years to reduce violence and intimidation in hospitals.

Successful engagement at NOLC
Following NOLC/Fall Meeting, more than 41 new signatories to legislation were added in total. The SAVE Act garnered 23 more cosponsors in the House and one in the Senate. In the House, the Strengthening Medicare for Patients and Providers Act secured eight additional cosponsors, the GOLD Card Act gained six, and the Patient Access to Higher Quality Health Care Act gained three. Increased support for these AAOS-
endorsed bills will improve visibility of these issues in Congress and garner broader bipartisan backing.

Visit the Advocacy Action Center at aaos.org/advocacy to learn more about these issues, and continue to follow AAOS advocacy news and updates in the biweekly AAOS Advocacy Now e-newsletter.

Jennifer Lefkowitz is a freelance writer for AAOS Now.

2023 OrthoPAC Award winners

Every year, the Political Action Committee of the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (OrthoPAC) honors states, subspecialty societies, and AAOS Fellows who demonstrate a high level of commitment to OrthoPAC. This year’s award recipients include:

OrthoPAC Hall of Fame
The 2023 OrthoPAC Hall of Fame award winners are:

  • John T. Gill, MD, FAAOS, immediate past chair of OrthoPAC
  • Rothman Orthopaedic Institute
  • American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons
  • American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons

Stuart L. Weinstein PAC Participation Awards
The Stuart L. Weinstein PAC Participation Awards honor state societies that have shown exemplary commitment to increasing OrthoPAC participation during the preceding year. The 2023 recipients are:

  • Stuart L. Weinstein Award for Most Improved Participation: Vermont Orthopaedic Society and Orthopaedic Society of Oklahoma
  • Stuart L. Weinstein Award for Highest Participation: Connecticut Orthopaedic Society

Access the online version of this article at aaosnow.org to learn more about the OrthoPAC award winners.