Connecticut Chapter Lobbies Congress
By Robert McLean, M.D., FACP
On May 8-9, Drs. David Podell and Robert McLean participated on behalf of the Connecticut ACP Chapter in the legislative activities designated as "Leadership Day on Capitol Hill 2001". We joined over 130 other physicians from across the country who travelled to D.C. for the opportunity to discuss several important health issues in person with legislators and staff.
The major topics emphasized included: 1) patient protection measures through the Patient Bill of Rights, 2) reducing Medicare regulatory hassles through the Medicare Education and Regulatory Relief Act (MERFA), 3) improving access of uninsured patients to care, 4) support measures to improve patient safety and study how to systematically reduce medical errors, 5) oppose efforts to convert Medicare to a defined contribution program (rather than the current defined benefit program), 6) support to establish a prescription drug benefit under Medicare with predictable and sustainable funding, and 7) support the funding of several health programs, including primary care programs and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which are significantly under-funded in the President's current budget proposal.
We met with Rep. Rosa DeLauro and Rep. James Maloney personally and found both to support all our positions. We also met Health Policy staffers for Sen. Lieberman, Sen. Dodd, Rep. Johnson, and Rep. Simmons. The political environment in Washington with focus on the passage of tax cuts did not seem ready to truly pass major health legislation like a Patient Bill of Rights. However, as I write this column, there has been a power shift in the Senate to the Democrats, and this will likely bring the Medicare prescription drug coverage and the Patient Bill of Rights back to the top of the agenda.
Connecticut has two of the most influential legislators with the regards to health issues: Senator Chris Dodd is a ranking member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pension, and Rep. Nancy Johnson chairs the House Ways and Means sub-committee on Health. Hearing from physician constituents on health issues will have an impact on these and other legislators, so please make your voice be heard.