Physicians attending the AMA National Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C., last month had a lot on their minds. The 14-member Kentucky delegation was no exception.
But while the hundreds of physicians and medical students who attended the conference were there to lobby, they also wanted to express appreciation to their Congressional delegation for repealing the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula, according to AMA President Steve Stack, MD, of Lexington. SGR, repealed in 2015, was the method used by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to control spending by Medicare on physician services and could have resulted in major cuts to physician reimbursements.
Dr. Stack said the conference is important because it illustrates the involvement of physicians on issues important to health care. He said the visiting physicians addressed an array of issues. Physicians asked Congress to encourage the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to implement the policies resulting from the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 so the regulations focus on the quality of care provided.
They also shared with lawmakers ways to tackle the opioids epidemic.
“While the AMA believes physicians should be leaders in preventing and reducing misuse, addiction, overdose and death from prescription drugs, our elected officials can help by supporting a comprehensive, multi-pronged public health approach,” Dr. Stack said.
While the conference is geared toward advocacy, physicians in attendance also had the opportunity to hear presentations on a number of topics. KMA President Theodore H. Miller, MD., said a presentation on Physician-Focused Alternative Payment Models for Health Care “offered a glimpse to a possible future for physician-controlled health care models.”
KMA President-Elect Nancy Swikert, MD, said the conference prepared physicians for the visits with Congressmen on Capitol Hill and allowed them to see how other states are addressing various health care issues.
“This conference gives physicians the legislative ‘big picture,’” Dr. Swikert said. “During the conference, physicians from different states get to network and find out that often problems in one state are also problems in another state. It helps in dealing with problems when you can share successes and failures, or even think of a new plan together.”
Dr. Swikert, who hails from Northern Kentucky, said the highlight of the conference was being able to spend time with attendees from the Lexington Medical Society and Greater Louisville Medical Society and learning about the projects they are doing.
“Having the opportunity to work with these and other medical societies during my President-Elect and President years will be an experience I would never want to miss,” she said.
Dr. Miller, too, was looking to the future after the visit.
“I hope that through additional face-to-face contact with our national legislators, we would be able to further develop a personal relationship with these congressman, which may prove beneficial to the KMA and our members in the future,” he said. “This conference is important for a number of reasons, but particularly because it gives the KMA an opportunity to make our Congressman personally aware of the views of our members on a number of issues affecting health care in the Commonwealth.”
Dr. Stack said the showing of physicians from across the country will be critical to achieving the goals of improved health for citizens across the country.
“Successful AMA advocacy depends on physicians being active in the community and advocating for policies that promote public health,” he said. “The AMA’s National Advocacy Conference provided a high impact opportunity to impact public policy in order to shape and improve the future of health care in our nation.”