Leadership Day Efforts Advanced ACP Advocacy Priorities, Laid Groundwork for Future Opportunities

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Top priorities this year included legislation to reduce administrative burden for physicians, support physician payment and strengthen the physician workforce

June 7, 2024 (ACP) -- By the numbers, this year's annual Leadership Day, held May 14 and 15, was impressive: The American College of Physicians sent hundreds of internal medicine physicians to Capitol Hill to lobby the nation's leaders, and they held about 370 meetings with members of Congress and their staffs.

But the true impact of Leadership Day goes beyond statistics. It is an opportunity for ACP members to lobby for patients and physicians while making lasting personal connections with policymakers.

"The energy and sense of palpable excitement among our attendees was as high as I had ever seen in the 20 years I have been involved in Leadership Day," said Dr. William E. Fox, chair of the ACP Board of Regents. "Our attendees learn that advocacy is a process, not just a one-day event, and that ongoing and sustained engagement with our representatives is vital for success."

As Fox explained, "Leadership Day is ACP's marquee advocacy event of the year, allowing our organization to effectively advance its legislative priorities. We advocate to our members of Congress on issues that impact our profession and our patients. We also educate our member attendees about the political landscape in general and important health care legislation in particular. And we hold workshops on how to be an effective advocate and leader. It's a lot of fun."

Attendees heard from key legislative staffers and members of Congress, including Sen. Roger Marshall of Kansas, Rep. Ami Bera, M.D., of California and Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan. Fox alone held six meetings -- with his own congressional representative and staffs of both his Virginia senators.

"Our goal was to seek support or co-sponsorship of three specific pieces of legislation important to our membership," Fox said. These bills are:

  • The Safe Step Act, which would help decrease administrative burden on physicians and help patients receive more effective care. If passed, it would create a transparent and reasonable exception process for burdensome step therapy protocols.
  • The Resident Physician Shortage Act, which would help address physician workforce issues by creating 2,000 new residency positions each year for the next seven years.
  • The Physician Fee Schedule Update and Improvements Act, which would raise the threshold for implementing budget-neutral payment cuts to physicians and link that threshold to inflation. If passed, it would help mitigate pay cuts that physicians face on an annual basis.

"In some cases, our advocacy was successful. In areas where we were not, we educated members of Congress to lay the groundwork for future opportunities," Fox said. "Advocacy is often about the long game. No matter which meeting I went to, I made a point to emphasize that physician burnout is at an all-time high and that access to care faces greater challenges now than at any time I can remember. These are realities our members of Congress need to know about."

ACP does not take a break after Leadership Day, Fox noted. "ACP advocates on a significant number of priorities throughout the year," he said, "including physician payment reform, reducing administrative burdens in general, ensuring access to care, protecting the patient-physician relationship, strengthening the physician workforce, supporting health IT, increasing prescription drug access and affordability, and reducing firearms-related injuries and deaths."

He added, "We are closely monitoring federal legislation related to prior authorization improvements and extending telehealth flexibilities beyond 2024. We are also leveraging opportunities at the state level, including legislation related to scope of practice, prior authorization and access to abortion."

Looking forward, "if there are members out there who have never attended a Leadership Day, please join us next year," Fox said. "It is not only an exciting event, but it is an opportunity to enhance leadership skills. As one of the award recipients said in her remarks to our group, political advocacy is patient advocacy. You cannot have one without the other."

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Back to the June 7, 2024 issue of ACP Advocate