MACRA Relief Announced by CMS

Andrew Slavitt, Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), announced in a blog posting on September 8 that the agency would heed concerns expressed by the American Medical Association and other physician organizations about the proposed start date for performance reporting by physicians under the new payment systems created by the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, or MACRA.  In its draft regulation, CMS proposed to require physicians to begin reporting under the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) or through the advanced alternative payment model (APM) option on January 1, 2017, even though final regulations promulgating MACRA’s sweeping payment system changes would not be issued until the fall. MSNJ was among those filing objections to the reporting and implementation time-line.

CMS announced that the final MACRA regulation will allow practices to “pick your pace” and  will exempt physicians from any risk of penalties if they choose one of three different MIPS reporting options in 2017, in addition to the option of participating in an advanced APM:

  • Full-year reporting that begins on January 1;
  • Partial year reporting for a reduced number of days; and
  • A “test” option under which physicians can report minimal amounts of data.

Physicians who report in 2017 may be eligible for bonus payments in 2019, depending on which option they choose.  Those who opt for full-year reporting will be eligible to receive a “modest positive payment adjustment;” those who choose partial year reporting will be eligible for a “small positive payment adjustment.”  Physicians who choose the “test” option will not be subject to any payment adjustments.  Qualified participants in advanced APMs will be eligible for 5 percent incentive payments in 2019. Read AMA’s statement. Read more.

Free Health Screenings For New Brunswick Residents on Saturday, July 23rd

Health Screening FlierIn celebration of its 250th anniversary year, the Medical Society of New Jersey (MSNJ) is partnering with the Homeless & Indigent Population Health Outreach Project at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and the Student Family Health Care Center at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School to offer free health screenings on Saturday, July 23 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Monument Square building, located at 317 George Street in New Brunswick.

Volunteers from MSNJ, including board members and medical students, will be onsite to help local residents learn about insurance options, have their blood pressure read and receive general health care information at the event.

The event takes place just steps away from the location of the founding of the Medical Society of New Jersey in 1766. That evening, MSNJ will celebrate this milestone anniversary with a formal gala across the street at The Heldrich Hotel also in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

“We are more than just health providers,” said Captain Joseph P. Costabile, MD, the 224th president of MSNJ. “We are leaders looking after our patients’ healthcare and guardians of their well-being. We remain dedicated to bringing health care services to the heart of the community.”

The gala, sponsored by Diamond sponsors Teladoc and Saint Peter’s Healthcare System, and others, will also recognize Dr. Costabile as he embarks on his term as president of the society. For more information, kindly visit or call (609) 896-1766.

Medical Society of New Jersey Announces Prescription Assistance Program for Patients

prescription-drug-card-322DC83G57Patients who need help with the cost of prescription medications can now obtain a free prescription assistance card provided by the state’s largest association of physicians.

The Medical Society of New Jersey (MSNJ) announced plans to distribute the New Jersey Drug Card, a discount drug card free to all New Jersey residents. The discount card generates savings of up to 75 percent on prescription drugs at hundreds of participating pharmacies statewide.

The discount card helps uninsured and under-insured residents afford prescription medications, which has already saved New Jerseyans more than $98 million since its inception.

“Medical Society of New Jersey physicians are committed to our patients and helping patients get the medications they need is a priority, “said MSNJ President Dr. Joseph Costabile.  “Patients cannot get well if they are not able to get their prescriptions. That is why we are making the New Jersey Drug Card available from our member physicians.”

The New Jersey Drug Card discounts are available to patients whose health insurance coverage does not include prescription benefits, which is common in many high deductible health plans. Those who do have prescription coverage with their health insurance can use this program to get discounts on medications that are not covered by their insurance plan. All New Jerseyans are eligible regardless of their current prescription coverage benefits.

New Jersey residents interested in taking advantage of this program may print a free card, search drug pricing and locate participating pharmacies by visiting or by visiting the program’s website at

Captain Joseph P. Costabile, MD Installed as 224th President of the Medical Society of New Jersey

costabile headshot 2016

Captain Joseph P. Costabile, MD

Captain Joseph P. Costabile, MD of Marlton, New Jersey was recently installed as the 224th president of the Medical Society of New Jersey (MSNJ) at its annual meeting in May. He has served as a member of MSNJ’s Board of Trustees since 2009, and will assume the presidency from Steven Berkowitz, MD  , PA, FACS, FAAOS, CIME.

“Dr. Costabile is a dedicated and passionate leader with a deep understanding of the issues and the vision needed to enact real change both in our organization and the greater medical community,” said Larry Downs, CEO of MSNJ. “We are thrilled to welcome him as our new president, and are confident that he will bring innovative ideas and expert guidance to our organization.”

A board-certified general and vascular surgeon, Dr. Costabile has extensive background in patient care, academic and professional leadership and health care advocacy. Since 1998, he has practiced with the Virtua Surgical Group, formerly the Surgical Group of South Jersey, Cherry Hill, with additional office locations in Marlton and Voorhees, New Jersey. Dr. Costabile has a long personal history with MSNJ. His father Douglas M. Costabile, MD served as the 198th president of the organization in 1990. In addition to his tenure on the Board of Trustees, Dr. Costabile has served as vice chairman of the MSNJ Council on Legislation since 2001.

A graduate of the Pingry Preparatory School and Ohio Wesleyan University, Dr. Costabile received his medical degree from UMDNJ Rutgers Medical School in Camden. After five years of surgical residency, a trauma fellowship and a year of cardiac surgical training, Dr. Costabile began his vascular surgical fellowship. At that time, he also enlisted as a medical officer in the U.S. Navy Reserves.

Dr. Costabile has dedicated many years of service to the U.S. Armed Forces. He is a captain in the U.S. Naval Reserves Medical Corps and was deployed twice to the Middle East in support of troops in Operation Iraqi Freedom. His first deployment was to an Expeditionary Medical Facility in Kuwait for a year in 2005, where he treated the combat wounded primarily from Iraq. His second deployment in 2008 was to Iraq for eight months. He has served as Head of Department of Surgery, U.S. Military Hospital, Kuwait and Chief of Professional Services, 1st Medical Battalion Alpha Company, Camp Al Taqaddum, Iraq. Today, Dr. Costabile continues to serve at the rank of captain in the 4th Medical Battalion under the 4th Marine Logistics Group, located at the Joint Base McGuire/Dix/Lakehurst.

As an advocate for protecting and advancing the profession of medicine, Dr. Costabile’s involvement in organized medicine has increased over the years. Since 2007, he has served as a delegate of the American Medical Association. Additionally, he served as president of the Camden County Medical Society (2003-2004) and president of the Vascular Society of New Jersey (2009-2010). He continues to serve as the Vascular Society’s treasurer, a position he has held since 2003.

In his inaugural speech as president, Dr. Costabile outlined three simple and straightforward goals for his one-year term:

  1. Focus on increasing membership and activism;
  2. The need for New Jersey physicians to “take back” their profession; and
  3. The need to do more to care for our military personnel.

“We are doctors, physicians – much more than just providers,” he stated. “We are leaders looking after our patients’ healthcare and guardians of their very well being. If we are not the stewards of our own profession, who will do it for us?”

His passion and dedication to our nation’s armed forces rang through in his inaugural speech:

“We need to do so more to take care of our military. These are people who have written a blank check to our great nation, with payment up to and including the sacrifice of their own lives. How many of us can say the same?” he continued. “We owe them a debt of gratitude – and from a professional standpoint, this can be accomplished by providing them with the quality, timely, compassionate medical care they have earned and deserve. We need make sure our veterans are aware of the programs and free care available to them, and all physicians should at a minimum accept Tricare, the military’s health insurance. We must do all we can as physicians to make sure this population is not ignored.”

A gala has been scheduled in Dr. Costabile’s honor for Saturday, July 23 at The Heldrich Hotel in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The gala, sponsored by Capital Strategies Investment Group and Cowan, Gunteski & Co., P.A. among others, will not only recognize Dr. Costabile as he embarks on his new term as president, but will also celebrate 2016/2017 as MSNJ’s 250th Anniversary year. For more information, kindly visit or call (609) 896-1766.

MSNJ Hosts 3rd Annual Physicians’ Advocacy Conference

htnccvrrThe Medical Society of New Jersey’s 3rd Annual Physicians’ Advocacy Conference and House of Delegates Meeting, presented by Diamond Sponsor Cancer Treatment Centers of America, will be held Friday, May 13 to Saturday, May 14, 2016 at the Stockton Seaview Hotel & Golf Club in Galloway, New Jersey. The morning keynote address will be delivered by the Honorable Stephen M. Sweeney, president of the New Jersey Senate.

Conference workshops feature a variety of advocacy topics, including: Unraveling the Mystery of Insurance Audits, Personalized Care: Improve Satisfaction and Quality and How are Payers Ranking you in Terms of Cost and Quality. Saint Barnabas Medical Center is accredited by MSNJ to provide continuing education for physicians and has designated this educational activity for a maximum of 3 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s).

Following the keynote, a number of highly-respected, subject matter experts will join New Jersey physicians to address issues of importance to the physician community – speakers include:

  • Ann Marie Apruzzi: Director of Healthcare Management, Clinical Code Integration and Medical Cost Programs, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey
  • Sanket Baralay: President and CEO, FIGmd
  • Steven M. Goldman, Esq.: Partner, Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP; Past Commissioner, NJ Department of Banking and Insurance
  • Maurie Markman, MD: President of Medicine and Science, Cancer Treatment Centers of America
  • Andrew Pecora, MD, FACP, CPE: Chief Innovations Officer and Vice President of Cancer Services, John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center; Partner, Regional Cancer Care Associates; and Professor of Medicine, New Jersey Medical School
  • Deborah J. Winegard, Esq.: Of Counsel, Whatley Kallas LLP

Registration is required – visit or call (609) 896-1766 for more information or to register. For additional information or any questions, contact MSNJ at

MSNJ Celebrates 250th Anniversary, Salutes New Jersey Physicians on 2016 National Doctor’s Day

This year marks the 250th anniversary of the Medical Society of New Jersey (MSNJ), the nation’s oldest professional association. Founded in 1776, MSNJ has remained focused on promoting the betterment of the public health and science and the art of medicine, enlightening public opinion with regard to the problems of medicine and safeguarding the rights of the practitioners of medicine. The organization advocates for the rights of patients and physicians for the delivery of the highest quality medical care.

“We wish to recognize the contributions New Jersey physicians have made to our state’s overall health during National Doctor’s Day,” said Steven Berkowitz, MD, PA, FACS, FAAOS, CIME, the 223rd president of MSNJ. “We know physicians do much more than diagnose and cure. We thank them for their leadership and desire to adapt their practices during the changing health care landscape, as they continue to provide top-notch, affordable care for their patients.”

With more than 6,000 members, MSNJ is not only proud to celebrate its milestone year, but also the many contributions physicians have made over its 250 year history – from insisting race, color and creed should not be barrier to professional membership (1870) to successfully banning indoor smoking throughout the state of New Jersey (2006).

In recognition of the anniversary year, MSNJ will be hosting a 250th Anniversary Celebration and Inaugural Gala on Saturday, July 23, 2016. The gala, sponsored by Capital Strategies Investment Group and Cowan, Gunteski & Co., P.A. among others, will be held at The Heldrich Hotel in New Brunswick, New Jersey. In addition to celebrating this significant historical milestone, the gala will honor the new incoming 224th President of MSNJ, Dr. Joseph Costabile, a board certified general and vascular surgeon with the Virtua Surgical Group based in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

For more information about the 250th Anniversary Celebration Gala, please visit

Overdose Awareness Day in NJ: Time to Reflect, Time for Policy Makers to Act

By: Lawrence Downs, CEO, MSNJ

August 31 marks International Overdose Awareness Day, a global event designed to raise awareness of drug addiction as a disease and to help bring attention to the need to reduce the stigma, disgrace and shame that often surrounds treatment, overdose and drug-related deaths.

The members of the Medical Society of New Jersey (MSNJ), especially our addiction specialists, join their colleagues nationwide in commemorating Overdose Awareness Day. They are leading the fight against stigma and are committed to offering patients the best, and most effective course of action in treating their addictions. It is in this vein that MSNJ calls upon New Jersey state policy makers to partner with physicians in the fight, by offering patients obtain better access to addiction treatment options.

Unfortunately, there are barriers to successful treatment. MSNJ strongly supports legislation that would improve insurance coverage of the treatment of mental and behavioral health conditions, including addiction. Senate Bill 324 establishes a Behavioral Health Insurance Claims Advocacy Program, recognizing the difficulty patients face in obtaining coverage for treatment. Senate Bill 2180 requires health benefits plans to provide coverage for behavioral health care services. Both bills recognize patients’ struggles for access to care when insurers either deny their coverage or cover so little that the proposed treatment cannot be effective. For example, carriers regularly first seek to place patients in a lower level of care, like an outpatient program just, “to see if it works,” when in reality, the patient needs a comprehensive inpatient or residential program of care for at least 30 days. Length of treatment is often limited to an amount less than what is needed for meaningful treatment.

In addition to general coverage for mental health and addiction treatment, MSNJ is fighting for insurance coverage of specific, proven treatment models, like medication assisted treatment (MAT). MAT is a widely accepted successful form of treatment which is often rejected by insurance carriers. Assembly Bill 3830 would require insurance coverage for MAT, thus changing the lives of many patients for the better.

While the New Jersey Legislature has taken the lead in moving a package of bills on addiction issues, it has not yet passed these bills, despite the vast number of patients who cannot obtain treatment due to insurance barriers.

We praise Governor Christie for signing several bills in the package, including Assembly Bill 3723, which permits successful completion of drug court for those who are utilizing MAT for substance use disorders. This new law gives hope to those struggling to recover. We hope the Legislature sends the insurance coverage bills to his desk as well.

The stigma that mental and behavioral health patients face is institutional. We ask New Jersey policy makers to break these barriers to access to allow true and desperately needed insurance coverage, so mental health conditions are recognized and covered, just like physical conditions. Our physicians need the support of the carriers and the government to provide their patients with the treatment options they need to recover.

New Jersey’s Physicians at the Forefront of Addiction Prevention and Treatment Efforts, MSNJ Spearheading Reform

Physicians throughout the state of New Jersey continue to be at the forefront of addiction prevention and treatment efforts – and MSNJ is spearheading real reform in this area. Here is a breakdown of what we are doing:

  • Understanding that opioids may fall into the wrong hands and must be prescribed only when needed, New Jersey physicians already prescribe fewer opioids than physicians in other states, so that the potential for misuse is already low. MSNJ asks that all physicians use the state Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP), and have long advocated for it to be a more reliable, accurate and accessible healthcare tool. We applaud Governor Christie for signing S1998 this week, as it requires these improvements.
  • We are also encouraging patients to store medications securely and dispose of any unused or unneeded medicine so that it is not stolen or misused. MSNJ supports A-709, also recently signed by Governor Christie, which requires patients to receive information about proper disposal, since most prescription drug abuse occurs when a patient’s medicine is taken by someone else. According to statistics from the New Jersey State Board of Medical Examiners, only about 20 percent of medication that is abused comes directly through patient prescriptions. As such, we must focus on reducing diversion.
  • Addiction specialist physicians are on the front lines in treating addiction. We strongly support legislation that would improve insurance coverage of addiction treatment (S324, S2180 and A3830). While the New Jersey Senate has taken the lead in moving a 21-bill package on addiction issues, it has not yet passed these bills, despite the vast number of patients who cannot obtain treatment due to insurance barriers.
  • MSNJ has also held numerous educational events for physicians to learn new tools. We hosted six regional events with the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey and several more, reaching thousands of doctors across the state with the message and goal of diversion and addiction prevention.

MSNJ believes in informed consent and our members follow regulations requiring consent for opioids prescribed for chronic pain. But, we continue to oppose S2366 because the science does not support this mandate. The risk of addiction for medication prescribed for acute pain is extremely low. And, because most addiction stems from diversion, S2366 will not be as effective as A709 and S1998. Patients who are legitimately prescribed medicine are not the ones who become addicted. This is why focus on diversion is so important.

Statutory mandates like S2366 also restrict physicians to practices that are considered ideal at one moment in time. But, in reality, doctors are constantly evolving their practices as public health needs change, medical knowledge advances and technology improves. In fact, physicians are changing their prescribing practices and using new tools to ensure medications are used properly. For example, physicians prescribing opioids are requiring patients to sign agreements to adhere to treatment plans so that there is a shared responsibility and understanding of medication protocols.

The public must also remember that doctors prescribe medications for the health and comfort of our patients. Opioids and other medications may be needed after a traumatic event, such as an injury or surgery, or to enable a patient to function day-to-day and enjoy a decent quality of life. As former New Jersey Attorney General Jeff Chiesa said when introducing the PMP, “High levels of prescribing and dispensing of controlled drugs are not necessarily indicators of illegal activity or drug abuse. While working to stop abuse, we must remain mindful of the legitimate uses of medication and ensure practitioners are empowered to meet their patients’ healthcare needs.”

Physicians should not be blamed for the recent heroin surge, but rather supported in their efforts to treat and fight for insurance coverage for their patients. MSNJ will continue to advocate for the improvement of healthcare for our patients and will continue to partner with the Partnership for a Drug Free New Jersey, the Legislature, the Governor and his departments and all interested stakeholders toward our shared goal of preventing diversion and abuse and keeping our state healthy.

Steven Berkowitz, MD, PA, FACS, FAAOS, CIME Installed as 223rd President of the Medical Society of New Jersey


Steven Berkowitz, MD, PA, FACS, FAAOS, CIME, the newly installed 223rd President of the Medical Society of New Jersey (MSNJ)

Lawrenceville, N.J. – Steven Berkowitz, MD, PA, FACS, FAAOS, CIME was recently installed as the 223rd President of the Medical Society of New Jersey (MSNJ) at its annual meeting. He has served as a member of MSNJ’s Board of Trustees since 2004.

Dr. Berkowitz is a board certified orthopaedic surgeon and clinical instructor with more than 35 years of experience. He co-founded and currently practices at Seaview Orthopaedic and Medical Associates, with six office locations in New Jersey from Barnegat to Monroe. Additionally, he has served as the clinical instructor for the orthopaedic rotation at the Jersey Shore Medical Center for the past 20 years. He is currently certified by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery and American Board of Independent Medical Examiners.

Last year, Dr. Berkowitz was appointed to the New Jersey State Board of Medical Examiners, a position he will hold until 2017. A recognized leader in a number of medical associations and organizations, Dr. Berkowitz served as past president of the New Jersey Orthopaedic Society and currently serves on its Board of Directors as the legislative chairman. Additionally, he is the past president of the Monmouth County Medical Society and now serves as a member of the executive committee. Dr. Berkowitz is also a member of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, American College of Surgeons, Arthroscopy Association of North America, and the Eastern Orthopaedic Association.

“Dr. Berkowitz’s experience as a top orthopaedic surgeon and clinical instructor, as well as his involvement in various respected medical organizations makes him exactly the type of president MSNJ needs,” said Larry Downs, CEO of MSNJ. “We are honored to welcome him as our new President. He brings great leadership, guidance and expertise to our organization.”

Dr. Berkowitz graduated with honors from The Cooper Union – Albert Nerken School of Engineering and obtained his medical degree at SUNY Downstate College of in Brooklyn, New York, graduating cum laude. He completed his residency at Maimonides Medical Center and the NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, both located in New York City.

He currently resides in Wayside, New Jersey with his wife Pamela. The couple has four adult children, and is expecting their seventh grandchild.

The Medical Society of New Jersey Hosts 2nd Annual Physicians’ Advocacy Conference and House of Delegates Meeting

On Friday, May 1, MSNJ hosted its 2nd Annual 2015 Physicians’ Advocacy Conference and House of Delegates Meeting from 7:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., at the Crowne Plaza in Princeton, NJ. This year’s conference, sponsored by Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield New Jersey and Kern Augustine Conroy & Schoppmann, P.C., was a huge success with 150 registered attendees and a total of 40 sponsors and exhibitors.

Our unique, interactive conference is designed to connect and engage New Jersey’s physicians and review the overall impact of the practice of medicine within the state. As an added benefit to our physician attendees, the conference fulfills AMA continuing medical education credits (4 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™).

This year’s conference included a number of workshops that focused on a variety of advocacy topics, including: Legislative Advocacy 101; Regulatory Advocacy 101; Everything You Need to Know About ERISA-Regulated Health Plans; and The Future of Maintenance of Certification.

Additionally, the conference featured a number of highly-respected speakers, panelists and moderators from diverse professional backgrounds and expertise.

“We were proud to offer such a stellar line-up of notable speakers, panel members and moderators at this year’s conference,” said Larry Downs, CEO of the Medical Society of New Jersey. “We carefully selected these professionals, all subject matter experts in their respected fields, knowing that they would thoroughly address a number of issues of importance to the physician community.”

Robert E. Andrews, Esq. – former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and former chairman of the Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce – delivered the keynote address.

Other speakers, panelists and moderators included six sitting legislators, like Assemblyman Herb Conaway, MD, Esq. (D-District 7), Chairman of the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee and the only physician in legislature – and Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick; and two of the most highly respected contract lobbyists in Trenton, Paul N. Bontempo, President and Co-Founder of MBI Gluckshaw, Democratic State Committeeman and former Democratic National Committeeman and AJ Sabath, Partner and Co-Founder of Advocacy and Management Group.

The day ended with a well-attended reception, featuring networking opportunities and delicious food and drink for attendees.

“All those who attended – from physicians and medical students to practice managers and health care specialists – benefited from the information presented at this year’s conference,” stated Dr. Paul J. Carniol, 222nd President of the Medical Society of New Jersey. “We look forward to more successful conferences like this in the years to come.”

Check out the photos from the event!

# # #