Author: Michael Kitchell, MD - Iowa AMA Delegation Chair, Neurology - McFarland Clinic PC, Ames
This year’s National Advocacy Conference was held virtually, on February 23 and 24th, but it did give more of our AMA delegates and executive committee members a chance to participate compared to last year.
Dr. MaryGrace Elson, Dr. Hillary Johnson, Dr. Mike Kitchell, Dr. Anne Langguth, Dr. Rob Lee, Dr. Doug Martin, Dr. Tiffani Milless, Dr. Doug Peters, Dr. Brian Privett, Dr. Jessica Zuzga-Reed, Dr. Victoria Sharp, Dr. Scott Truhlar, along with Mike Flesher and Dennis Tibben of our IMS staff, all participated in the National Advocacy conference and Zoom meetings.
The AMA had various presentations for a few hours each day, and there were many legislators, AMA staff and officers who spoke about issues and AMA advocacy priorities. The AMA had five major issues:
- Telehealth, which advocated for making the expansion permanent,
- Extending the moratorium on the 2% Medicare sequester beyond the March 31 ending,
- Improving the process for conducting scientific and clinical research on cannabidiol and marijuana,
- Establishing programs and policies addressing maternal health, particularly for women of color, to promote health equity and improve the nation’s dismal mortality rate,
- Promoting the AMA’s extensive plan to cover the uninsured.
Though many of the legislators who spoke, especially physicians in Congress, had some interesting comments, one of the highlights of the NAC conference was the historian and author Doris Kearns Goodwin. Goodwin had many interesting historical stories to tell, but one stood out as a precedent to January 6, 2021. That was a description of an assault in the US Senate in 1856, when a pro-slavery advocate broke in and brutally beat a Massachusetts senator with a large cane, leaving the abolitionist senator with major head and spinal injuries that took three years to heal. The assault did result though in triggering action by the US Senate to bring legislation forward to abolish slavery.
Our crew, led by our IMS president Brian Privett, met on Zoom with Senator Joni Ernst, Representative Ashley Hinson, Senator Grassley, Representative Randy Feenstra, and Representative Marianette Miller-Meeks. We were received warmly by all our members of Congress, and we detailed our concerns about the Geographic Practice Cost Indexes that reduce our Medicare reimbursement to among the lowest in the nation. We are still awaiting the General Accounting Office study of the GPCIs, which we hope will finally uncover the inaccurate methodology for determining the GPCI penalties we have endured since 1992.
We also outlined our concerns about the COVID relief packages and vaccine shortages, and our concern about physician shortages that will become even greater as we lose more residency programs for both primary care and specialties.
We described for each of our members of Congress how important telemedicine visits, including audio-only visits, are to our Iowa physicians and patients who also need broadband to connect more reliably. Each member did express support continuing coverage for telehealth after the pandemic.
Our group urged our members of Congress to support the bill by Senator Grassley that authorizes more research on cannabidiol and marijuana. We also urged our members to sign on to a bill, called the MOMMAs act, which would promote better maternal health and equity, reducing the very high US maternal mortality rate. Our AMA delegation and executive committee hope that our contacts will enable more communication and coordination of our efforts to improve our health and healthcare policies, and continue our effective advocacy for our patients and profession. Next year though we hope to make it in person to Washington for the NAC and visits on the Hill.