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Advocacy in action: CMS leaders represent you on Capitol Hill

On their advocacy mission to Washington, DC, CMS leaders gave voice to the frustrations and concerns of thousands of colleagues in Cook County, while honoring those who earned awards for exceptional service to patients and their profession.

Both Thomas M. Anderson, MD, president-elect and Howard Axe, MD, Council chairman, joined their peers on Capitol Hill for Physician Lobby Day, before making personal house calls on senators and representatives.

In every visit, the most urgent agenda item was the precipitous decline in physician reimbursement and what it means for the future of health care delivery.

Meaningful reform ensures fair payment for physicians’ services, they emphasized, noting the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula, on which reimbursement is based, in no way reflects the actual cost of providing care.  Uncertainty over proposals to “fix” the SGR keep physicians questioning their ability to continue participating in Medicare.  In 2010 alone, Congress passed five bills alone providing temporary payment patches.

Under a pilot program, Medicare is currently testing the most talked about reform model, the accountable care organization (ACO).  Both Drs. Anderson and Axe stated that physicians, rather than insurers and hospitals, should hold leadership roles within the ACO, and their participation should be voluntary.  Dr. Axe called for anti-trust relief so that solo practitioners and small physician groups can compete and collaborate with hospitals and other organizations as they provide improved care.

Both leaders visited the offices of Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL); Mark Kirk (R-IL); Harry Reid (D-NV); Reps. Timothy V. Johnson (R-IL); Luis Gutierrez (D-IL); Adam Kinzinger (R-IL); Mike Quigley (D-IL); Robert Dold (R-IL); Danny Davis (D-IL); Jan Schakowsky (D-IL); Judy Biggert (R-IL); and Eric Cantor (R-VA).

Allotting ample time for building and tending to relationships with lawmakers, the conference also offered sessions on advocacy and lobbying techniques, legislative briefings, and updates from political and heath experts.

Rounding out the Feb 8-10, 2011, mission, Drs. Anderson and Axe Both visited AARP headquarters and the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Advocating for 17,000 physicians practicing or residing in Cook County, CMS will continue to relay physicians’ perspectives on strengthening the health care system.

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