Meetings with congressmen, messages from policy experts and networking with physician advocates from across the U.S. were all part of the 2013 National Advocacy Conference (NAC) of the AMA in mid-February. Indiana physicians were well represented and your concerns were presented and discussed.
“The opportunity to be in our nation’s capital and give input and insight into these critical discussions to Indiana legislators was our main mission and time well spent,” said Gordon Hughes, M.D., ISMA president.
Accompanying Dr. Hughes were Thomas Vidic, M.D., immediate past president; Thomas Whiteman, M.D., chairman of the Board of Trustees; and Jerome Adams, M.D., alternate trustee for the Young Physicians Society and ISMA Government Relations Director Mike Rinebold. They made visits to present the physicians’ side of key issues like replacing Medicare’s Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula, preventing the 2 percent cut under the sequester and transitions to new payment delivery models.
|In Washington D.C., (left to right) Thomas Vidic, M.D., immediate past president; Thomas Whiteman, M.D., chairman of the Board of Trustees; Jerome Adams, M.D., alternate trustee for the Young Physicians Society; U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon, M.D.; Gordon Hughes, M.D., ISMA president; and Mike Rinebold, ISMA director of Government Relations.
The ISMA group had meetings with Indiana Congressional Delegation members Reps. Susan Brooks, Larry Bucshon, M.D., Andre Carson, Luke Messer and Todd Young. They also met with staff in the office of Congresswoman Jackie Walorski.
“Taking the time to have our leadership meet with our Congressional delegation while they are in session is critical to the advocacy mission of the ISMA, but the mission must be carried back home to the districts, as well,” said Rinebold. “Make sure your voice is heard and send a note to your representative today.”
Learning from other perspectives
Dr. Whiteman said the NAC offers an important time to interact with colleagues from all over the country who are dealing with a variety of issues. “The NAC gives you an unlimited opportunity to learn from other perspectives,” he said.
Conference attendees also heard a message from the Obama administration, delivered by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. She told her audience, “Today I can report that the state of American health care is getting stronger – thanks in large part to America’s doctors.”
She noted there is still much to discover about new models of care and asked physicians to “let us know” how we can support your efforts. She echoed the need to replace the SGR formula. “We remain committed to an SGR fix that will take America’s doctors out of a permanent state of limbo. Temporary extensions are not good enough.”
The physicians also heard from Senior Advisor for the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation Nancy Nielsen, M.D., Ph.D., also an AMA past president. She discussed new health care models that promote quality and help make health care more affordable for patients.
“I think we are at a tipping point,” Dr. Nielsen said. “This is an enormous opportunity for physician leaders to step forward.”
Atul Grover, M.D., chief public policy officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges, advised that the U.S. is expected to see a shortage of 90,000 physicians by the end of the decade.
The heart of the problem, he said, is that Congress has limited the number of residency slots since 1997, even while demands of a growing patient population have multiplied. The number of U.S. medical school graduates will exceed the number of available residency slots by as early as 2015, a situation medical students call the “jaws of death.”
Finally, Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., who chairs the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who serves on the Senate Committee on Finance, talked of the importance of physicians communicating with Congress.
Referring to an SGR replacement and a transition to fees based on quality, Rep. Upton said measures “must come from the medical profession” and should be flexible for all specialties.
“It’s essential that we have input from you,” he urged. “That is the only way it will work.”