Evansville ophthalmologist and ISMA Assistant Treasurer William Penland, M.D., has been to Washington, D.C., many times, but his March 1 visit was sobering.
On that trip, Dr. Penland joined ISMA leadership at the AMA National Advocacy Conference. They also visited Indiana’s congressmen and senators, delivering the message that a temporary fix to the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) was not acceptable. They urged them to replace the SGR formula with a more realistic system.
“We had a pleasant meeting with Congressman Brad Ellsworth,” said Dr. Penland. “It was a productive meeting. Discussion of the SGR was the most prominent topic, but it seems Congress is not capable of getting anything done.”
Joining Dr. Penland were: ISMA President Fred Ridge, M.D.; President-elect Brent Mohr, M.D.; Immediate Past President David Welsh, M.D.; Speaker of the House Tom Vidic, M.D.; Board Chairman Gordon Hughes, M.D.; and Treasurer Deepak Azad, M.D.
During the National Advocacy Conference, AMA leaders discussed health care reform and how to finance it for a long-term solution.
“The AMA’s message to Congress about the SGR is ‘you broke it, now fix it,’” commented Dr. Ridge. “I agree. Congress is spending too much time and energy on this. We need to fix it so physicians can move forward and take care of patients.”
One of the conference speakers was U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius who pledged her support for a permanent repeal of the SGR. She also acknowledged that the nation’s medical liability system should be changed and urged physicians to be involved in future public health discussions.
Dr. Azad, a Scottsburg internist, had the chance to talk to Secretary Sebelius about obesity and its affect on health care costs.
“To talk about health care reform, we also have to change patient lifestyles,” he commented. “Secretary Sebelius assured me that her department was working on public service messages and that funding was available for it.”
Reflecting on the trip, Dr. Hughes, a Muncie rheumatologist, realized the importance of physician participation.
“Health care is the single most important issue right now,” he said. “It is critical for physicians to become engaged.”