As everyone turned the page on 2021 and entered 2022 with a new hope for a return to normalcy, vascular surgeons continue to be at the forefront of the fight to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our days and nights are taxing as we handle the challenging vascular manifestations of COVID-19, the life- and limb-threatening consequences of delayed medical care for chronic vascular conditions, the limited hospital bed capacity and the healthcare workforce shortages.
The resulting burnout, diminishing financial reimbursements and sluggish growth in the vascular surgery workforce necessitate a further push for vascular surgery’s seat at the legislative table as healthcare policies are developed that impact our patients and us.
In 2021, the Society for Vascular Surgery Political Action Committee (SVS PAC) focused on the following goals:
- Advocacy for fair and appropriate payment for vascular surgeons
- Advocacy for relief from regulatory burdens such as prior authorization
- Awareness about physician wellness issues
- Resolution of workforce attrition issues
Overall, the SVS PAC continues to grow in a positive direction, with 254 unique members (6% of the SVS membership). Despite this growth, the SVS PAC lags other specialty societies in the amount and percentage of contributing members—a crucial metric to open the doors for our advocacy efforts in Congress. The SVS PAC aims to increase the percentage to 10% of the SVS membership as unique members of the PAC by the end of this election cycle, Dec 31, 2022.
In December 2021, because of multiple advocacy efforts by SVS PAC, Congress passed legislation to halt several Medicare physician payment cuts including a delay in resuming the 2% Medicare sequester for three months (Jan. 1–March 31), followed by a reduction to 1% for three months (April 1–June 30); the erasure of the 4% Medicare PAY-GO cut and prevention of any additional PAY-GO cuts through 2022; and a one-year increase over the Conversion Factor of 3% (0.75% less than the expired conversion factor “patch” provided for 2021). However, the clinical labor update went into effect on Jan. 1, as year one of four.
These Medicare reimbursement results represent partial success of tremendous advocacy efforts, by the SVS PAC and other healthcare organizations. But, we still need your help as we continue to work on the clinical labor updates and its impact on office-based vascular surgery procedures.
Congress must hear your voice and the SVS PAC needs your continued support to do so. Please continue to contact your elected representatives and to contribute to the SVS PAC for 2022. Vascular surgeons deserve representation equal to our role in the fight for a healthier society.
Shahram Aarabi, MD, and Yazan Duwayri, MD, are members of the SVS PAC Steering Committee.