LMS President’s Message: March 2023, Advocating for Physician Issues in Washington D.C.
By Lee Dossett, MD
I am happy to report back on my recent attendance at the 2023 AMA National Advocacy Conference in Washington DC, which focused on the pressing issues facing our profession today. Kentucky was well represented by members of LMS, the Greater Louisville Medical Society, and the KMA. The conference was a mix of speakers and education about AMA advocacy priorities. Three current US Senators addressed the crowded room of physicians, discussing various healthcare policies and history. Other speakers included CMS officials, a presidential historian, and media personalities. On Valentine’s Day, the KMA contingent went to Capitol Hill where we met with Senator Mitch McConnell and Senator Rand Paul. The LMS delegation also met with the staff of Congressman Andy Barr, who was home in Kentucky at the time.
During the conference and our Capitol visit, we focused on three main priorities that are critical to the future of medicine:
- Medicare Physician Payment Reform: Medicare is one of the largest payers for healthcare services in the United States, yet it has been notorious for its outdated reimbursement system. The conference emphasized the need for Medicare physician payment reform that is sustainable for the future. As you may know, physicians were facing a 8.5% reimbursement cut last year. Fortunately, this was ultimately reduced to a 2% cut for 2023, but additional cuts are coming for 2024. It does not make sense that reimbursement is being cut in a high inflation environment. Compared to 2001, inflation adjusted reimbursement is down 22%. We advocated for a reimbursement rate that is pegged to inflation, like most other CMS payments.
- Allied Health Scope of Practice Limits: Allied health professionals play an essential role in our healthcare system, but it is essential to maintain proper limits on their scope of practice to ensure patient safety and efficient use of healthcare dollars. We discussed the need to support a collaborative practice model that promotes teamwork and collaboration between physicians and other healthcare professionals while maintaining appropriate limits on their scope of practice. At least 4 bills were introduced in last year’s congress to expand scope of practice. Ultimately none of these bills were signed into law, but the AMA expects them to be refiled in some form this year.
- Increase GME Residency Slots: With the looming physician shortage, it is crucial to increase the number of residency slots to train the next generation of physicians. Current GME residency slots were capped by law in 1997. Medical school enrollment continues to grow, but training spots are becoming harder to match into. Recent legislation over the last 2 years have added 1200 spots, but this is not enough. We advocated for the passage of the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act, which would create 14,000 new spots over 7 years. Given that it takes 7-10 years to educate and train a physician, Congress should act immediately to avoid dire shortages in the future.
Overall, attending the AMA National Advocacy Conference was an eye-opening and empowering experience. It was inspiring to see physicians from across the country come together to advocate for our patients and our profession. I am proud to represent our local medical society in this critical work.