2015-06-05 11:51:39 UTC

Physicians Should be Involved in the Political Process

June 8, 2015

During DDW® 2015, Dr. Gaurav Singhvi attended a session on the political process and came away with an understanding of how important it is for physicians to be involved.

By Gaurav Singhvi, MD, AGA PAC Board of Advisors

I just returned from attending Digestive Disease Week® (DDW) 2015 in our nation’s capital. As usual, it was a great meeting. I learned about new cutting-edge procedures, exciting therapies for challenging diseases, caught up with old friends and networked with colleagues.

The highlight of the meeting, without a doubt, was the session sponsored by the AGA Government Affairs Committee entitled Why Should Physicians Be Involved in the Political Process? An Insider’s View. The session was chaired by Dr. Peter Margolis, chair of the committee. Washington, DC, was the perfect venue for this topic, due to its outsized influence on our profession, practice and patients. The first talk, “Moving Beyond the Medicare SGR Payment Formula,” was given by Bob Jasak from Hart Health Strategies.

The repeal of SGR and replacement with MACRA (Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act) this April was a great achievement and something that AGA had been working on tirelessly for many years. The next step, moving to value-based reimbursements, is a complex process with many details that are still in the process of being worked out. Mr. Jasak, an attorney with several years of experience in the health-care policy arena, gave a comprehensive overview of the legislation and provided valuable insight on what he thinks the law will mean for GI practices. The main takeaways were the consolidation of quality programs and how compliance with these and other quality measures will dramatically impact reimbursement in the coming years.

The Honorable U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-TN, was the next speaker. As a retired OB-GYN physician, Dr. Roe brings a physician’s perspective to Congress. He was extremely engaging, knowledgeable and forthright. He described his path through politics to the U.S. House of Representatives from private practice. Dr. Roe’s goals during this Congress include repealing the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), an unelected body with a broad mandate to achieve savings in the Medicare program, and making the implementation of ICD-10 a smooth process. He believes both can be achieved in a bipartisan fashion. Dr. Roe also discussed NIH funding, veterans' health care and graduate medical education funding in an open and frank question and answer session.

He expressed his strong support for colorectal cancer screening and removing any barriers to colonoscopy (such as passing the Supporting Colorectal Examination and Education Now, or SCREEN, Act) in very personal terms; his wife unexpectedly and tragically died of colon cancer earlier this year.

I came away from the session energized and inspired. This was the first DDW, as far as I am aware, that was addressed by a sitting member of Congress. As important as the scientific breakthroughs described at DDW are, the only way they can be realized is if physicians take the initiative and get involved with the policy side of medicine. There are numerous critical issues facing the GI community, as I've discussed above. We need to ensure that we have a seat at the table (login required) so we can fight for our profession and patients. This can be achieved by simply reaching out to one’s representative in the House or State Legislature. We play a critical role in the lives of their constituents (our patients) and they will respond to these powerful stories.

I encourage all AGA members to get involved in this process (login required). To learn more, contact Navneet Buttar, government and political affairs manager. 

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