by Lynn Parry, MSc, MD, Colorado Delegate to the AMA
Featured in the March/April 2018 Colorado Medicine.
Each year, in the midst of late winter/early spring, the AMA gathers delegates from across the country to learn the latest insights and federal legislation and to meet with their Congressional representatives. This year at the 2018 National Advocacy Conference, a number of Colorado physicians and staff from CMS, component societies and specialty societies descended on Washington, D.C. to hear Rich Deem, AMA senior vice president for advocacy, and others explain how critical physicians contacting their representatives was to securing important items in the Budget Bill.
These included CHIP reauthorization, permanent repeal of the IPAB and important fixes to MACRA. More than ever, physician awareness and involvement in advocating for their patients and their profession is critical. Because the voice of medicine is active, physicians already have made gains, particularly in the Quality Payment Program (QPP) final rule, by aligning other quality programs and reducing the burden of electronic health records.
The 10 legislative goals for the AMA rolled out by AMA President David O. Barbe, MD, MHA, and listed in the report on the opposite page cannot be achieved without the help of physicians with boots on the ground. And legislative advocacy is a completely different skillset and a different way of looking at the universe than we physicians are comfortable with. Our own state Sen. Irene Aguilar, MD, a 2015 recipient of the AMA’s Nathan Davis Award for Outstanding Government Service, shared her “culture change” with AMA News: “In medicine, especially internal medicine, I want to tell you everything I know because it may trigger a thought that helps with the diagnosis,” she said. “But in politics, you’re playing poker and you hold things back. It does take learning a new paradigm.”
It can be difficult to shift from an “evidence-based” narrative to personal stories, but advocating for the voice of medicine and the betterment of our patients is rewarding. The AMA has multiple tools, courses and support for physicians – whether they want to just put a finger in to test the temperature or dive fully clothed into the deep end of “The Swamp” – available on their website, www.ama-assn.org.
One of these tools is the AMA’s “Congressional Check-Up,” a guide to help physicians, residents and medical students navigate and cultivate relationships on Capitol Hill. It contains information about how and where to reach members of Congress, how to effectively communicate with members of Congress and what resources the AMA has available to support your efforts.