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Internists in Washington to discuss patient and professional issues in meetings on Capitol Hill

Washington Nearly 400 internal medicine physicians and medical students from 44 states and the District of Columbia gathered in Washington today for the annual American College of Physicians (ACP) Services Leadership Day on Capitol Hill. Celebrating its twentieth anniversary, the program is recognized as being highly effective in increasing the visibility of internal medicine issues on Capitol Hill and building leaders who are trained to advocate for the College's positions throughout the year.

"I welcome all of you here today because I know that you believe, like me, that being a good physician requires more than knowing about the latest treatments," David L. Bronson, MD, FACP, president of ACP, told Leadership Day attendees today. "It is also important to be an advocate for the best public policies. They are policies that benefit our patients and are in accordance with the highest standards of our profession."

Following an intensive day of in-depth learning of the issues, how best to talk with Members of Congress about those issues, and how to follow up after a Hill visit, the delegates will go to the Hill to tell their "real-life" stories on Thursday. This year, they will concentrate their messages on the effects budget cuts and sequestration will have on their patients and practices; payment reform, especially the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR), and their support of the Medicare Physician Payment Innovation Act, H.R. 5707; and health courts.

Specifically, attendees will be asking their members of Congress and Senators to:

Ensure sufficient funding for highly effective and critically important public health, workforce, and medical research programs, while reducing federal health spending in a responsible way by focusing on the real cost drivers. The internal medicine physicians and medical students will urge Congress to reverse scheduled automatic (budget sequestration) cuts in highly effective and critically important programs administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Health Services and Resources Administration, and share ACP's ideas for Medicare and other entitlement programs, reducing marginal and ineffective care, reforming physician payments, and changing the tax treatment of health insurance benefits.

Co-sponsor (House) or introduce (Senate) the Medicare Physician Payment Innovation Act, H.R. 5707, introduced by Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA) and Joe Heck (R-NV). The internal medicine specialists and medical students will point out that this is the only bipartisan bill to repeal the SGR, stabilize payments, provide higher updates for primary, preventive and coordinated care, test new models aligned with value to the patient, and then transition to the most effective payment models by 2018.

Break the partisan gridlock on medical liability reform by introducing/co-sponsoring legislation to initiate a National Health Court Pilot Program. ACP has developed a framework for a pilot where malpractice claims would be heard by judges with access to independent medical experts, rather than lay juries, resulting in more predictable and fair compensation to patients for damages resulting from medical negligence while reducing the costs of defensive medicine.

"Leadership Day this year brings some special challenges," Dr. Bronson emphasized. "Congress remains divided on partisan and ideological grounds, and there is a renewed focus on the federal budget and the national deficit. Congress has so many things on its plate right now and an election looming in the fall; all of it influenced by each party's desire to advance its own policy agenda."

A series of issue background materials along with legislative and regulatory panels helped clarify the challenges for the nearly 400 internal medicine specialists on hand.

They also recognized several outstanding state ACP policy advocates and the winner of the annual Richard Neubauer Advocate for Internal Medicine Award. Formerly known as the Key Contact of the Year Award, the Neubauer Advocate Award recognizes the advocate who has made exceptional contributions to advance the College's public policy agenda. A former member of the ACP Board of Regents, a former ACP Alaska Chapter Governor and the recipient of the 2004 Key Contact of the Year Award, Dr. Neubauer passed away last year.

For her outstanding advocacy efforts in 2011, Dr. Rebecca Andrews of Canton, Conn. received the 2012 Richard Neubauer Advocate for Internal Medicine Award. She was cited for her efforts in working with a Conn. Congressman and the state's media to reinforce ACP's stance on health reform and the Affordable Care Act.

Contact: David Kinsman
American College of Physicians

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