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Leadership Day Draws Hundreds and a Call for Action

ACP members and leaders met with positive response

June 8, 2018 (ACP) -- A clear message of legislative priorities was presented to more than 100 senators, House representatives and dozens of staff members by the American College of Physicians during its annual Leadership Day event in the nation's capital in May. More than 350 ACP members and medical students from 48 states and the District of Columbia attended the two-day event and this time, the response was more encouraging than it has been in the recent past.

"Some years you go in, and there are blank stares. Not this year," said Andrew Dunn, MD, MPH, SFHM, FACP, chair of the ACP Board of Regents. "We were pleased to see more bipartisan support for certain ACP initiatives, such as reducing administrative hassles for physicians, lowering drug prices and addressing the opioid crisis."

Dr. Lopez giving the Boyle award to Andy SlavittIn addition, ACP awarded the Joseph F. Boyle Award for Distinguished Public Service to Andy Slavitt, the former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

The award, named for a former executive director of the American Society of Internal Medicine, honors a current or former government official or a physician acting in an official capacity (state or federal, executive, or legislative) who has provided outstanding public service toward improving the delivery of health care.

Slavitt played an instrumental role in increasing access and affordability of health care by implementing the Affordable Care Act. He's now the board chair of The United States of Care, a new nonpartisan, nonprofit initiative that advocates for economically and politically feasible solutions to the nation's current health care challenges.

ACP has a unique amount of influence in Washington D.C. due to its size and membership. It's the largest medical specialty organization and the second-largest physician group in the U.S.

Dr. Dunn, professor of medicine and chief of Hospital Medicine at the Mount Sinai Health System, said the response from legislators and staffers was especially positive in response to pleas for less paperwork for physicians. "The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has said this is a priority for them, the current White House administration is interested in reducing hassles, and different bills have been floated to reduce the burden on physicians," Dr. Dunn said. "We support most of the bills, and we found a lot of agreement during Leadership Day."

Indeed, he said, "we've already seen some significant changes, such as allowing physicians to link to notes taken by medical students."

This year, ACP is lobbying for H.R. 4841, a bill that would standardize prior authorization forms under Medicare Part D. "This was one of our big asks during Leadership Day," Dr. Dunn said, "and we've gotten quite a bit of support."

Ami Bera, MD, FACP (D-CA-07) discusses health care policy with members of ACP's California chapterACP leaders were also pleased by bipartisan support for a Senate bill, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) 2.0 of 2018, which would increase substance abuse funding, improve treatment, and enhance first-responder training.

Among many other organizations, ACP is deeply concerned about the dramatic rise of opioid abuse in the U.S. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimated that 115 people die each day after opioid overdoses, and the CDC says overdoses rose by nearly a third in 2017 compared to 2016.

Two years ago, Congress approved the original CARA Act, providing funding for public education about opioids, evidence-based treatment and recovery programs, and overdose-reduction tools for law enforcement officers.

During Leadership Day, legislators and their staff members were also receptive to ACP's calls for lower drug costs and for expanding the physician workforce, Dr. Dunn said.

Unfortunately, he said, there was less interest in ACP's focus on stabilizing the insurance market. "We're pushing hard for reform," he said, "but I didn't get a sense there would be a lot of action."

Still, he said, "the energy from our members during Leadership Day was incredible. The day went extremely well, and the overall response from congressional offices was very good."

More information

ACP's press release on the event is here.

ACP's priority issues can be found here.

Information on the Boyle Award is here.

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