American College of Physicians: Internal Medicine — Doctors for Adults ®

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Leadership Day: An opportunity to advocate for health care reforms

From the May ACP Observer, copyright 2007 by the American College of Physicians.

Leadership Day is the one day of the year when ACP brings together Masters, Fellows Members, Associates and student members from around the country to influence decisions by Congress on policy issues that affect our patients. Chapter Governors organize delegations to learn about the issues and receive training about effective patient advocacy. The delegations then spend a day meeting with lawmakers to present a unified internal medicine agenda.

Leadership Day helps us to understand the Congressional agenda for health care and provides us an opportunity to present members of Congress with our important concerns. The goal is to present top priority issues as clearly and persuasively as we can.

Leadership Day grows

Since it began in 1993, attendance has grown steadily from 53 to 265 in 2006. This year, Leadership Day begins on Monday, May 14, with briefings by ACP's Washington staff for associates and medical students. On Tuesday, the rest of the delegates arrive for sessions on advocacy and for tips on the best ways for physicians to communicate with legislators. Emphasis is placed on how to make effective presentations on Capitol Hill as well as at the state and local levels. Later in the day, Bob Doherty, ACP's Senior Vice President of Governmental Affairs and Public Policy, will update participants on current affairs and key advocacy issues for ACP. Participants also will be briefed by members of Congress, their administrative aides and other Washington insiders on the background of key issues so that presentations can be as clear and effective as possible.

Between the sessions there will be many opportunities to talk with colleagues, to make new friends and to discuss local and national issues. During dinner on Tuesday evening, participants will hear a stimulating keynote address by a leading analyst of the Washington scene. We will also recognize our colleagues who have made a special effort to present ACP issues to national and state governments as part of the ACP's Key Congressional Contact initiative.

Wednesday is ACP's day on The Hill, a busy day when ACP members from each state meeting with their Representatives, Senators and Congressional staff about key agenda issues. This year, ACP wants to build on a 2007 victory, blocking a proposed 5% cut in Medicare physician payments, and avert an anticipated 10% cut in Medicare physician payments in 2008. We will also urge Congress to take necessary steps to implement changes in Medicare payment policies to support care that is coordinated by a personal physician in a "patient-centered medical home," including paying internists for the work associated with care coordination that falls outside of the face-to-face office visit.

The College will ask lawmakers to provide positive financial incentives to physicians who use health information technology to improve outcomes. We will urge Congress to modify the transitional Medicare "pay-for-reporting" program that will begin this summer, before extending it into future years, so that it provides positive, sustained and sufficient incentives for quality improvement and care coordination rather than "reporting for the sake of reporting." We also will challenge Congress to enact comprehensive reforms to expand access to care to the 47 million uninsured Americans.

Advocacy works

I increasingly appreciate the significance of Leadership Day. It is a very important day for the College. It is also very important for members of Congress to meet with physicians to understand who we are, to witness our dedication to our profession and the patients we serve, and to hear our message about the best ways to improve health care in our country. At a minimum, these interactions are very educational, both for us as well as for the staff and members of Congress. This is an important opportunity for us to make a lasting impression in Washington to be followed-up with further contacts throughout the year.

Many internists I talk with want to know about the outcomes of Leadership Day. They ask, "Was the trip to Washington worth it?" From my perspective, it is well worth the time and money to go to Leadership Day. For those who are new to Washington, it is worthwhile just to see the city and get a feel for the pulse of life in the nation's capital. Those who have been to Washington before appreciate the value of regular, face-to-face meetings with members of Congress to ask for their support. Leadership Day is an opportunity to put names and faces behind the messages we now regularly send to Congress through our grassroots activities and the Key Congressional Contact Program.

Looking ahead

The year ahead promises many opportunities for us to advocate for a stronger and better health care system in our states and state capitals. I anticipate that many of us will become involved in advocacy as never before. Looking ahead to the spring of 2008, our annual meeting will be held in Washington, D.C., May 15-17, and will be preceded by Leadership Day on May 13-14. This will provide a unique opportunity for many of us to participate in the excellent educational program at our annual meeting and also to present the priority issues of ACP to the Congress. Plan to attend Internal Medicine 2008 and participate in Leadership Day. Interested members should contact the Governor of their ACP chapter for more information. The strength of our advocacy depends on each of us becoming more involved. Our well-organized and well-led advocacy program is a real benefit of membership in ACP.

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