American Urological Association launches initiative to expand Washington presence

October 1, 2008

Efforts are under way to make certain urologists' voices are heard when the new Congress convenes in January and considers legislation that will dramatically affect their practices and patients.

Key Points

A legislative working group of 12 AUA members is now developing "principles for health reform" that, once approved by AUA's board of directors, will be advanced for consideration as federal legislation is developed.

"We intend to proactively develop and propose our own principles in contemplation of this new legislation, which we expect will be the first major issue to be considered when the new Congress convenes," said Priscilla Chatman, AUA's director of government relations and advocacy.

Raising AUA's profile

It's all part of AUA's strategic decision to increase its profile in Washington and to exert greater influence as critical issues are considered by lawmakers and regulators on Capitol Hill and in the key agencies with influence over health care. This year's opening of a new Capitol Hill office by AUA and the recent appointment of Chatman, a health policy attorney with 15 years of experience, were other key steps in that initiative.

"What Congress decides on health reform will have a major impact on physicians and urology," Chatman told Urology Times. "We intend to be proactive. We want to be at the table, to be a major player. We believe we speak for both providers and patients who need access to specialty care as these important decisions are made."

Chatman, who assumed her new position at AUA in July, previously served as vice president for government for the Lupus Foundation of America, among other positions.

"Priscilla Chatman is the right leader to take urology to a new level of participation and visibility," said AUA Associate Executive Director of Health Policy Beth Kosiak, PhD.

Chatman is charged with helping AUA execute its new legislative plan that was approved by the board of directors as it seeks to strengthen urology's position in Washington. Among AUA's priorities are:

Implementing strategy

To generate support for issues affecting urology, it is crucial to increase recognition of the specialty, which is why it is so important to "raise the profile" of urology on Capitol Hill and within the executive branch, Chatman explained. As a result, AUA is working to connect urologists with prostate cancer, a highly recognizable condition.

"Urology is not something that most people have heard about or think about, but they are familiar with prostate cancer," Chatman said. "So we are letting them know that prostate cancer is usually diagnosed and treated by urologists so they have a better understanding."

Noting that a report by the Government Accountability Office has generated concern in Congress regarding in-office imaging services, Chatman cautioned that legislation to restrict such services by medical practices may well emerge in the new Congress. This past summer, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) sponsored a bill that would require physicians to disclose to patients their financial interest in imaging services and give patients a list of alternative providers in the area.