Step therapy reform, improving physician payment, interest-free deferment of student loans for residents, and increasing Medicare-supported GME positions among topics discussed
June 16, 2023 (ACP) — Nearly 400 American College of Physicians members converged on the nation's capital in May for the annual Leadership Day event and urged congressional leaders to take action to protect and support the American health system.
“Leadership Day is ACP's flagship advocacy event where members are invited to learn about the issues affecting physicians and patients, learn how to communicate effectively with elected leaders and then have meetings with senators and House representatives about those issues,” said Dr. Eileen D. Barrett, chair of the ACP Board of Regents. “It's a great opportunity to educate our legislators about our lived experience while also providing guidance on what could be done to make things better for patients and practices. And it gives us a chance to lay the foundation for a long-term relationship with them and their staff members for continued advocacy work.”
This year, ACP members from 47 states and Washington, D.C., held 428 meetings with members of Congress and their staff members. There were 91 meetings in the Senate and 337 meetings in the House.
“Key topics that we discussed were reforming step therapy to be more patient-centered while also reducing burdens to physicians, legislation allowing residents to qualify for interest-free deferment on their student loans during training, increasing the number of Medicare-supported GME [Graduate Medical Education] positions, aligning Medicaid reimbursement with Medicare payments for primary care and providing inflationary adjustments to Medicare payments to physicians,” Barrett said.
Attendees were impressed to see a spirit of unity among the nation's leaders, she said. “There is bipartisan support for a lot of important issues facing physicians, patients and our communities. All of ACP's asks have bipartisan support, and I was particularly happy to hear about recently introduced bipartisan legislation on having universal background checks for firearms.”
Specifically, Barrett said she was pleased to hear presentations from three members of Congress— Reps. Kim Schrier (D-Washington), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pennsylvania) and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa) — who all spoke about issues that affect internal medicine physicians and patients. Schrier and Miller-Meeks are both physicians.
“It was reassuring to hear that there are leaders who want to hear from physicians, care what physicians have to say and want to take action so that patients and physicians are supported,” Barrett said.
She was especially delighted to work with a team of residents and students from her state of New Mexico. “They were passionate, compassionate and informed,” she said. “In our meetings, we asked what legislative aides knew about the key topics, then told stories about how our patients were affected by [specific] issues. We then provided specific bills that could help address these problems and asked for support for these bills. The aides were very interested and largely supportive of our asks.”
ACP's advocacy efforts paid off. In the weeks after Leadership Day, the number of cosponsors of the bill to reform step therapy doubled, as did the number of cosponsors of the Kids' Access to Primary Care Act. And the number of cosponsors of the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act, which will boost Medicare-supported medical residency positions, went up by 54 percent.
“ACP's advocacy agenda is broad, reaching a balance of being both aspirational and achievable,” Barrett said. “This year, we'll be continuing our work to support the internal medicine workforce, reduce administrative burdens, support access to behavioral health care, preserve access to reproductive health care, promote health equity and justice and counter the epidemic of gun violence.”
Looking forward, Barrett said she hopes ACP members who could not attend this year's Leadership Day will consider joining their colleagues in 2024. “They won't be disappointed, and they may be surprised by how inspired they are by the great work being done by their peers,” she said. “Leadership Day is such a hopeful experience.”