Urologists should never feel as though they do not or cannot influence decisions that impact their patients and profession. Martin K. Dineen, MD, shares his insighst on the latest changes in government regulations, payer policies, and how you can get involved and make a difference.
Based on a partnership with Urology Times, articles from the American Association of Clinical Urologists (AACU) provide updates on legislative processes and issues affecting urologists. We welcome your comments and suggestions. Contact the AACU government affairs office at 847-517-1050 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
As president of the American Association of Clinical Urologists, I am proud to lead a vital organization of dedicated physicians during a period of profound change.
Government regulations and payer policies increasingly alter, if not compromise, the provision of urologic care. Pushing back individually, while valiant, cannot accomplish the kind of systemic change that our patients and practices require.
Urologists are uniquely represented within organized medicine and the halls of power. National groups including the AACU, AUA, and LUGPA regularly educate lawmakers, regulators, and medical directors on how proposals would impact the urologic community.
UROPAC-"Urology's Advocate on Capitol Hill,” is yet another vital organization that facilitates relationship building and advocacy. The AACU recently resumed sole ownership of this political action committee, which supports candidates who believe in preserving the doctor-patient relationship and the independent practice of urology.
The restructuring of UROPAC and renewed vitality of its leadership comes at a perfect time. Not only will control of the Senate be influenced by the PAC's strategic donations to select candidates, but we have the opportunity to elect one of our own to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Retired Florida urologist Neal Dunn, MD, is seeking the Republican nomination in the Sunshine state's second district. Whoever wins the GOP contest is likely to defeat incumbent Democrat Rep. Gwen Graham (D), according to the Cook Political Report, a newsletter that analyzes political elections and campaigns. Dr. Dunn attended George Washington University Medical School and completed his residency training at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He went on to serve in the U.S. Army for over 10 years. His entrepreneurial spirit drew Dr. Dunn and his young family to Florida, where he ultimately founded Panama City Urology Center, Bay Regional Cancer Center, and the Advanced Urology Institute.
Dr. Dunn has secured notable local and national endorsements and recently joined fellow urologists at the Joint Advocacy Conference (JAC), where urologist appreciation was on full display. Likewise, urologists expressed support for UROPAC by committing more than $70,000 during the two-and-a-half day event.
In addition to political sessions such as those led by Dr. Dunn and political analyst Stuart Rothenberg, the JAC 2016 agenda included informative and engaging presentations on urology's joint legislative priorities.
Recommended: AUA lobbies USPSTF on draft research plan
The most urgent campaign calls for reform of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which is in the beginning stages of reconsidering its recommendation against all men being screened for prostate cancer with the PSA test. David Penson, MD, MPH, pointed out numerous flaws in the USPSTF process and the 2012 recommendation, while representatives of the patient community, including the Men's Health Network and Susan G. Komen, explained how the urologic community might be mobilized in support of this effort.
What's more, on visits to Capitol Hill on the last day of the conference, urologists called on elected representatives to co-sponsor legislation that would improve future USPSTF recommendations. The "USPSTF Transparency and Accountability Act" (H.R. 1151) would also decouple the un-elected panel's recommendations from having any impact on Medicare payment policy.
Another high-profile priority of the urologic community is increased federal funding for graduate medical education. The number of residency slots funded by Medicare has remained unchanged since 1997. While other federal and state government programs, as well as academic medical centers, have slowly stepped in to accommodate an increasing number of domestic and international graduates, more and more newly minted doctors are being caught up in the bottleneck between medical school and residency. Armed with fresh statistics showing the shortage of surgical specialists outpaces family medicine, urologists urged members of Congress to support the "Creating Access to Residency Education Act of 2015" (H.R. 1117).
While high-intensity meetings on Capitol Hill concluded JAC 2016, congressional advocacy expert Brad Fitch shared important information about the influence of district meetings and facility visits. According to the Congressional Management Foundation's "Perceptions of Citizen Advocacy on Capitol Hill," 94% of staffers say district/state office constituent visits have " 'some' or 'a lot' of influence… more than any other influence group or strategy." The results of this survey bear out the relevance of the AACU's JAC365 online guide to scheduling in-district meetings and facility visits.
Urologists should never feel as though they do not or cannot influence decisions that impact our patients and profession. UROPAC and initiatives such as JAC365 and the AACU State Society Network ensure that policy makers and urologists understand and pay attention to the urology community's concerns.