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Health & Public Policy Committee Summer 2005 Report

By Robert McLean, M.D., FACP
Chairman, Health & Public Policy Committee

Advocacy, advocacy, advocacy. Can I emphasize its importance any stronger? Every year I have traveled to Washington, D.C. to visit our legislators as part of the ACP's Leadership Day, I am reminded of how crucial it is for physicians' voices to be heard. We work as the central coordinators of our complex health care system and thereby understand exactly what is involved in the delivery of health care more than anyone else. We must emphasize our critical central role as we work to improve our problematic health care system.

On this year's visit in May, I was joined by Eric Mazur, David Podell, David Miner, Carla Casillo, and Jeannette Tetrault in an effort to present a broad spectrum of physician and resident perspective to our message for legislators. We participated in significant face to face visits with Senator Lieberman, Senator Dodd, and Rep. Johnson as well as a briefer visit with Rep. Shays. The major issues discussed included: health information technology legislation, the dysfunctional Medicare physician reimbursement system and the need to fix the flawed sustained growth formula (SGR- which determines changes in Medicare reimbursement from year to year), medical student loan repayment legislation, and medical liability reform.

In early June, a legislative alert was sent out to all Key Contacts asking for contact to be made with Senators and House Representatives about specific bills to fix the SGR Medicare system for at least the short term. Being a Key Contact is just one way you can make your voice heard and help the ACP achieve its goals on your behalf. If you are willing to help contact our Legislators as the need arises, please ask me (rmmclean@optonline.net) to add you to our growing list of Key Contacts or you can sign up through the ACP website.

On the local level, the state legislative session finished in mid-June, and biggest issue was medical liability reform. A bill passed both houses which unfortunately contained no non-economic award limits and also had significant other provisions which were deleted which may have proven helpful - actuaries indicated that one cannot expect significant impact on liability insurance premiums with this bill. As of mid-July, it is uncertain yet whether Governor Rell will sign it.

As we engage in dialogues with our federal and state legislators, we continue to try to help them understand the impact which various legislative initiatives truly have on the delivery of health care. Theory is one thing, but we emphasize the actual experience of our daily practice. Our legislators need constant reminders from us and from our patients about the multiple factors in the U.S. health care system which threaten patient access to quality care. The legislators still do not really understand the urgency of many of the problems. We will keep up the effort.

Connecticut ACP Physicians Advocated Medical Malpractice Reform on Local TV

If you were tuned to Cablevision's Channel 84 during the week of May 16, 2005, you were likely to see Dr. Robert McLean, Chairman of the Connecticut ACP's Health and Public Policy Committee and Dr. Eric Mazur, Governor of CT Chapter, ACP advocating for medical malpractice reform on Health Talk, a production of Cablevision's Local Programming Unit. Mazur, co-host of the program, invited Dr. McLean to lead the discussion that highlighted the risk to patient access of rising malpractice costs. Also appearing on the program were orthopedist, Dr. Michael Lynch, obstetrician, Dr. Thomas Ayoub and gastroenterologist, Dr. Claudia Gruss. Health Talk is seen throughout Cablevision's franchise in southern Fairfield and New Haven Counties, as far east as Woodbridge.