On July 27, the House Ways and Means Committee took up the Improving Seniors’ Timely Access to Care Act and unanimously voted for it to be moved forward for full consideration by the entire House of Representatives. While the bill still needs to be approved by the House and the Senate, it’s passage in the lower chamber should be a foregone conclusion as it currently has 309 cosponsors – 178 Democrats and 131 Republicans!
The Improving Seniors’ Timely Access to Care Act would streamline prior authorization in the Medicare Advantage (MA) program by requiring MA plans to establish an electronic prior authorization program to issue real-time decisions and report annually on a list of items and services that are subject to prior authorization, the percentage of requests approved and denied, the average time for approval, and average time that elapsed between the submission and determination.
Prior Authorization is not only a burden to physicians and their practice, it is also a deliberate barrier to care for patients – particularly those most at need – by delaying services that are routinely approved. The Improving Seniors Timely Access to Care Act would greatly reduce this burden and protect the physician-patient relationship. Because of the changes this bill would make, NASS has been actively advocating for the passage of this bill since it was first introduced in 2019.
NASS has championed the legislation in virtual fly-ins in 2020, 2021 and earlier this year. Public support for the legislation was issued
by NASS in May 2021. NASS has even been one of the lead organizations in the Regulatory Relief Coalition – a consortium of physician and provider groups focused on the passage of prior authorization reform legislation – participating in group meetings with members of Congress and developing the coalition’s social media and communications strategy.
Passing out of the Ways and Means Committee is an important step in the legislative process, but the fight for this bill is not yet over. NASS will continue to strongly advocate for passage of the Improving Seniors’ Timely Access to Care Act as well as other legislation that reduces the burden placed on physicians – regulatory or otherwise.
To learn more about NASS’ activities on this issue or how you can help, please reach out to the staff in our advocacy department at Advocacy@Spine.org
Philip L. Schneider, MD
Chair, NASS Advocacy Council