ACP Advocates for Safe and Equitable Voting Access, Health-Related Ballot Measures

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During press briefing at the Internal Medicine Meeting 2024, ACP representatives discussed safe and equitable access to voting and ACP federal advocacy priorities

May 3, 2024 (ACP) -- As the 2024 U.S. elections draw closer, the American College of Physicians is calling attention to the need for safe and equitable access to voting and advocating for action on key health-related ballot measures.

ACP recently held a press briefing during the Internal Medicine Meeting 2024, its annual scientific meeting, with Dr. Omar T. Atiq, former ACP president; Dr. Eileen Barrett, former chair of the ACP Board of Regents; and Shari Erickson, ACP chief advocacy officer and senior vice president of governmental affairs and public policy.

"Civic participation connects individuals, all of us, to our communities and empowers them with agency and decision-making," Atiq said during the briefing. "Safe and equitable access to voting is paramount to better health outcomes."

Low voter turnout, particularly among members of historically marginalized populations, can increase health-based inequities and disenfranchisement. Citing a recent ACP policy paper that makes recommendations for safe and equitable access to electoral participation, Barrett listed obstacles to casting ballots, such as lack of English proficiency, transportation challenges and limited polling hours and locations. In addition, she noted that physicians have a lower rate of voter turnout than the general population due to time and work constraints.

"Increased flexibility in how individuals can vote could help increase physician participation in elections and, in turn, help us to improve health on a larger scale," she said at the briefing.

Barrett also discussed the ACP partnership with Vot-ER, a nonprofit organization working to help health care professionals facilitate patient voter registration.

During the press briefing, Erickson outlined the ACP federal advocacy priorities for the year, including physician payment reform, reducing administrative burdens, ensuring access to care and prescription medications, protecting the patient-physician relationship, strengthening the physician workforce, supporting health IT and reducing firearm-related injuries and deaths. These initiatives will take centerstage at this year's Leadership Day, the annual two-day ACP advocacy event in Washington, D.C., where members bring issues of concern to U.S. lawmakers.

Many of these issues are, and will continue to be, hot topics as the election nears, she said.

In 2024, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services implemented a 3.4 percent across-the-board cut to physician Medicare payments. The G2211 add-on code, which pays more for complex, high-quality primary care, offsets some of the cut, but it is not enough, Erickson said.

"Physicians are still experiencing significant payment cuts and are the only group who provide care to Medicare beneficiaries, whose payments are not subject to an inflationary update," she said.

As the physician workforce is dwindling, Erickson noted that ACP continues to advocate for measures such as the Resident Education Deferred Interest Act. If passed, it would allow medical residents to defer their student loan payments until after the completion of their residency programs, without having to worry about accruing interest, Erickson explained. In addition, reauthorizing the Conrad 30 waiver program would allow foreign medical graduates to stay longer if they work in medically underserved areas.

Erickson also hopes to see some legislative action regarding the transparency of pharmacy benefit managers this year.

"While election years can be quite challenging in terms of moving new legislation forward, we are optimistic that we can make some headway on our top-priority issues over the coming months," she said.

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Back to the May 3, 2024 issue of ACP Advocate