Physicians gather to bring unified voice to Capitol Hill
Hundreds of physicians Monday descended on Washington, D.C. where they will refine their message on the top health policy issues facing doctors across the country, and take them directly to lawmakers for discussion.
The AMA’s National Advocacy Conference, which lasts until Wednesday, gives physicians opportunities to meet face-to-face with members of Congress and gain important insights from industry experts, political insiders and members of Congress regarding current efforts being made in health system reform refinement and implementation.
Physicians gather in Washington, D.C. to prepare to speak to lawmakers. From left to right: Pennsylvania hematologist/oncologist Marilyn Heine, MD; Oklahoma pulmonary physician Robert McCaffree, MD; Washington psychiatrist Kenneth King, MD; Oklahoma internist Woody Jenkins, MD; and AMA Board Member Mary Anne McCaffree, MD.
This year, doctors will be asking legislators and policymakers to provide relief from the regulatory penalties tsunami that is burdening their practices and threatening their ability to provide care for Medicare beneficiaries. The group will ask for changes in meaningful use, the Physician Quality Reporting System and the value-based modifier, including simplifying and aligning requirements and reducing the threat of financial penalties.
“We want to improve health outcomes for our patients, so we need to free up the technology to help us do so,” AMA President Robert M. Wah, MD, said as he welcomed attendees. “We’re here because physicians should spend more time with patients and less time navigating red tape.”
Physicians will also use this timely opportunity to urge Congress to eliminate the flawed sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula—the current Medicare payment patch will expire on March 31, making this week’s appeals especially critical. The bipartisan, bicameral legislation, developed last year to eliminate the SGR, supports innovative new delivery and payment models and physicians are asking Congress to again consider this legislation.
Robert B. Goldberg, DO, executive dean of the Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, is a 12-time conference attendee. He said he comes to Washington, D.C. with regularity, both with the AMA and other groups, to ensure the physician message is constantly being heard—and to ensure physicians are listening, too.
“There are precious few chances for physicians to have the opportunity to speak to, but more importantly, to have the opportunity to hear the opinions of, the people they’re trying to influence,” Dr. Goldberg said Monday. “As solid as our arguments are, and as firmly as we believe in them, they’re pointless if we are unable to see the wants and fears of the constituents our legislators have to deal with.”
Besides SGR and the influx of regulatory burdens, Dr. Goldberg is working for graduate medical education reform. These issues should be top of mind for all physicians, he said.
“I believe all of us went into medicine because of our level of independence and power,” Dr. Goldberg said. “Why do we give it up and think that people won’t listen, or it makes no difference, when the absolute reverse is the truth?”