The National Association for the Advancement of Orthotics & Prosthetics (NAAOP) has released a video webcast, in which NAAOP General Counsel Peter Thomas, JD, provides an update about what to expect from Congress in the next two months, including the impact on the O&P profession. A summary of the webcast follows:.
Federal Budget: The president proposed his federal budget for fiscal year 2016 the first week in February and included a replacement of the sequestration spending cuts. The budget is expected to eliminate huge pending cuts in spending to domestic programs such as the National Institutes of Health and defense programs alike. With Republicans in control of both the House and Senate and the president proposing a number of tax proposals that would target higher income individuals, the president’s budget is not expected to have much traction. But the announcement triggers the start of the annual budget process where both the House and Senate are responsible for producing their own versions. Whether Congress will pursue reconciliation, a budgetary procedure that allows the Senate to pass the bill with only 51, not 60 votes, is not yet clear. An early test of Medicare threats will be an extension of the physician fee schedule fix, which expires April 1, requiring yet another short-term patch or a much more unlikely long-term fix.
Affordable Care Act Reform: Repealing all or part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a primary goal of the new Congress and efforts to do so are already well under way. In the past month, bills have been introduced (and some have passed) in the House and Senate to repeal the ACA’s medical device tax, the 30-hour work week stipulation, federal subsidies flowing through the federally facilitated exchange, the Independent Payment Advisory Board, and the individual and employer mandates. Much action on these bills is expected this year but few, if any, will be signed into law by the president. A more likely threat to the ACA is the King v. Burwell federal lawsuit, scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court of the United States in early March and decided in late June. This case will determine whether federal subsidies to help individuals purchase health insurance can or cannot flow through the federally facilitated exchange. If the answer is no, the holding will put a stake through the heart of the private insurance market and the more than five million individuals will lose their health insurance.
O&P Legislation: The new Congress offers an opportunity to reintroduce legislation to benefit the O&P profession in a manner that builds upon provisions that developed some significant support in the prior Congress. In addition to legislation to benefit injured and amputee veterans, NAAOP is working alongside its O&P Alliance partners to reintroduce O&P legislation that will link Medicare payment with O&P licensure and accreditation status; clarify that the clinical notes of the O&P practitioner are part of the patient’s medical record; and reform the audit and appeals process to make it more equitable, including a delay in recoupment until a decision has been made regarding the third-level of the Medicare appeals process, the Administrative Law Judge hearing.