State Society conference: Vigilance in the political process essential

October 6, 2014

Leaders of state, national, and subspecialty urologic societies from around the country converged in Rosemont, IL in September for a weekend of health policy discussions and advocacy tips with public officials, policy experts, and fellow urologists. One of the themes reinforced at the 7th Annual State Society Network Advocacy Conference, hosted by the AACU, was the importance and impact of physician engagement in the political process.

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 info@aacuweb.org for more information.

Leaders of state, national, and subspecialty urologic societies from around the country converged in Rosemont, IL in September for a weekend of health policy discussions and advocacy tips with public officials, policy experts, and fellow urologists. One of the themes reinforced at the 7th Annual State Society Network Advocacy Conference, hosted by the AACU, was the importance and impact of physician engagement in the political process.

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That message was apparent from the opening dinner, when Connecticut State Representative Prasad Srinivasan, MD (R-31 Glastonbury) described his journey from medicine to politics and his experiences in the Connecticut General Assembly as its only physician representative. Instrumental in defeating a 2012 bill aimed at weakening the state’s certificate of merit law, one of the reforms to Connecticut’s medical liability laws enacted over the years, Dr. Srinivasan also shared his insights into ways physicians can become better engaged in the political process.

Following his presentation, Dr. Srinivasan was presented with the 2014 AACU Distinguished Leadership Award for his outstanding work in the Connecticut General Assembly.

The theme of physician engagement and leadership continued when presidents of state urologic societies offered attendees insight into how to organize a more effective state urologic society, whether newly formed or more established. Mark Stovksy, MD, who ascended to the AACU presidency during the conference, led a panel discussion on in-district federal advocacy, where panelists Mark Edney, MD, the AACU’s newly elected secretary-treasurer, and Christopher Gonzalez, MD, AUA Health Policy vice chair, illustrated the importance of building and maintaining relationships with federal representatives in-district and offered suggestions on how.

A dramatic example of what can be achieved with strong physician engagement and a coordinated advocacy effort among urology and other specialties was demonstrated when California urologists Eugene Rhee, MD, and Aaron Spitz, MD, were joined by California Urological Association President David Benjamin, MD, and California Medical Association Associate Director for Government Relations Stuart Thompson, JD, for a presentation on the defeat of California Senate Bill 1215. All of the panelists were involved in this effort on the ground and were able to offer a detailed eyewitness account of the bill’s defeat. Had this bill become law, the in-office ancillary services exception to California’s physician referral law would have been essentially eliminated throughout the entire state, dramatically affecting the delivery of health care and patient access to independent, integrated medical services.

 

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The conference also included health policy updates at the state and national levels and a presentation on examples of what can be done to minimize intrusions on the physician-patient relationship caused by policies that interfere with patient access to medications. In addition, narrow networks and third-party payer contracts under the Affordable Care Act were explored by Wes Cleveland, JD, senior attorney at the American Medical Association. Alabama urologist William J. Terry, MD, who has spent years sounding the clarion call over ICD-10 implementation, brought attendees up to date on the latest developments and issues surrounding this ongoing and confounding saga.

The general sessions concluded with a health care work force forum where Paul Rockey, MD, of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, highlighted how little the United States spends on the education and training of future physicians in relation to the country’s overall expenditure on health care and provided examples of state funding of GME programs. Urology physician assistant Todd Doran, MS, PA-C, DFAAPA, chief of physician associate division and program director at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, provided insightful data on the background, education, and training of those physician assistants working in the field of urology and offered suggestions on how urologists and physician assistants can work more effectively as a team.

Attendees were presented with a lot of information and suggestions to take back to their respective states and societies. However, of the topics stressed at this year’s conference, none was more important than the necessity of physician vigilance and engagement in the political process.UT

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