The American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS) is committed to the enactment of legislation that will strengthen the delivery of, and access to, quality healthcare in the United States.  To that end, the AAO-HNS urges Members of Congress to support the Academy’s legislative priorities and proactively oppose legislation that will negatively impact the evolving practice of medicine.

The AAO-HNS legislative priorities for the 113th Congress include:

Permanently Repeal the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) Formula
The volatility and instability of the Medicare payment system is threatening beneficiaries' access to healthcare. Continued payment cuts, rising practice costs, and a lack of certainty going forward, make it difficult, if not impossible, for already financially-challenged physician practices to continue to treat Medicare patients. Over the past decade, the AAO-HNS and others in the physician community have repeatedly advocated for the reform and redesign of the unstable and unsustainable Medicare physician payment formula. However, Congress' failure to enact permanent reform has created an instability and uncertainty that undermines the ability of physicians to plan for the future, to provide for their employees, and to make investments to help improve the quality and efficiency of the care they provide. No true success in the healthcare reform and/or deficit reduction arenas can be achieved without the concurrent repeal of the SGR formula and development of a new Medicare physician payment model.  Members of Congress are urged to support the development and passage of legislation to permanently repeal and replace the flawed SGR formula.

Protect Patient Safety within the Medicare Program
The AAO-HNS strongly believes a physician-led hearing healthcare team with coordination of services is the best approach for providing the highest quality care to patients. In past years, some in the audiology community have pursued unlimited direct access to Medicare patients without a physician referral, and the AAO-HNS has repeatedly opposed such legislative efforts due to significant patient safety concerns. In addition, some audiologists now seek to amend Title XVIII (18) of the Social Security Act to achieve a "limited license physician" status within the Medicare program. Hearing and balance disorders are medical conditions that require a full patient history and physical examination by a Medical Doctor (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO). While audiologists play a critical role in providing quality hearing healthcare, their desire to independently diagnose hearing disorders transcends their level of training and expertise. To ensure patient safety is preserved, Members of Congress are urged to oppose "direct access" to audiologists without a physician referral and efforts to designate audiologists as "limited license physicians."  

Repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB)
The IPAB, an unaccountable body of individuals appointed by the President and charged with creating Medicare payment policy, usurps the rightful authority of our elected Congressional officials to create and shape Medicare policy. By limiting Congressional authority, the IPAB essentially eliminates the transparency of hearings, debate, and the meaningful opportunity of stakeholder input. In fact, fewer than half of the IPAB appointees can be healthcare providers, and none are permitted to be practicing physicians or be otherwise employed. Members of Congress are encouraged to cosponsor H.R. 351/S. 351 and urge Congressional leaders to allow a "clean" vote on the bills.

Support Clarity and Transparency in Healthcare Advertisements
Currently, there is little "transparency" associated with the most fundamental and important component of healthcare delivery – the many health professionals who interact with patients every day. Recent studies confirm America's patients prefer a physician-led approach to healthcare and are often confused about the level of training and education of their healthcare providers. Because of this uncertainty, patient autonomy and decision-making have been compromised. America's patients deserve to be fully informed and able to easily identify in healthcare advertisements their providers' credentials, licenses, and training when seeking treatment. Members of Congress are urged to support H.R. 1427, the Truth in Healthcare Marketing Act of 2013.

Enact Comprehensive Medical Liability Reforms
The nation's current medical liability system places patients in jeopardy of losing their access to vital healthcare services. With affordable and adequate medical liability insurance becoming difficult to find, physicians are retiring early, limiting their practices, or moving to states with less costly premiums. This disturbing trend is leaving entire communities without access to critical healthcare services. As a specialty, in an effort to reduce and learn from instances of medical error, the AAO-HNS has committed substantial resources to and engaged our members in proactive quality improvement initiatives. However, further statutory changes are necessary to address flaws in our current tort system and enact proven reforms to reduce frivolous lawsuits. Members of Congress are urged to explore innovative solutions to alleviate the burdens associated with the current medical liability system.

Patient Information Sheet

Protect Funding for Graduate Medical Education (GME)
While the AAO-HNS recognizes the stark fiscal reality now present in the United States, it is critical that support and funding for the nation's graduate medical education (GME) programs not be jeopardized as a means to achieve savings within the healthcare system. Reductions in GME funding will only cripple the nation's already dwindling physician pipeline and leave Americans with an inadequate supply of physicians, including specialists. Tackling the deficit is important, but cutting physician training at a time when our nation faces a critical shortage of physicians would threaten the health of all Americans. The AAO-HNS urges Members of Congress to refrain from reducing and/or redistributing critical GME program funding and support H.R. 1201 and S. 577.

Join the Congressional Hearing Health Caucus
Hearing health is a growing concern in the United States, especially as the population of "Baby-Boomers" continues to age and our nation's servicemen and women return home from active tours of duty. As a result, it is critically important that robust programs and research are available to mitigate the challenges associated with prolonged and acute hearing loss. The Congressional Hearing Health Caucus (CHHC) is a bipartisan caucus of members from the House and Senate committed to supporting the needs of those who are deaf or hard of hearing. The CHHC strives to increase public and Congressional awareness of the issues of critical importance to those with hearing loss through periodic events and correspondence. Members of Congress are urged to help promote proper hearing healthcare in this nation by joining the Congressional Hearing Health Caucus.

Click here to print a copy of the 2014 AAO-HNS Legislative Priorities

How to Get Involved?

Join the ENT Advocacy Network. By joining the ENT Advocacy Network, AAO-HNS members can take an active role in educating Members of Congress and state legislators on how proposed bills and regulations affect the practice of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery. Often, elected officials look towards healthcare associations for expertise when trying to develop or change federal health policy. Click here to learn more and/or join the ENT Advocacy Network.

To learn more about AAO-HNS Federal legislative priorities and/or activities, contact the Government Affairs team at legfederal@entnet.org.