A Day on the Hill

Radiologists from around the country flocked to Capitol Hill to take radiology’s message to Congress.

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Over 500 radiologists, fellows, and residents attended the annual Capitol Hill Day during ACR 2016. This year, we thanked our Senators and Representatives for including provisions within H.R. 2029, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016.

This legislation lowered the professional component of the multiple procedure payment reduction (MPPR) from 25 percent to 5 percent for advanced imaging studies (such as CT, MRI, and US) performed on the same patient, in the same session, on the same day.
We also thanked our elected officials for including additional provisions within H.R. 2029 that place a two-year moratorium on the flawed United States Preventive Services Task Force’s (USPSTF) mammography screening recommendations. Thanks to Congress, private insurance companies must continue to provide women ages 40 and above with access to annual mammograms without any form of patient cost sharing through Jan. 1, 2018.
After thanking our Members of Congress for these recent victories, our focus shifted to gaining cosponsors for H.R. 1151/S. 1151, the USPSTF Transparency and Accountability Act. This bipartisan legislation seeks to reform the task force in a variety of ways. First and foremost, the bill seeks to increase the overall level of transparency within the USPSTF’s recommendation process, including the data and research methodologies the task force uses to justify its recommendations. H.R 1151/S. 1151 also mandates the inclusion of specialized physicians on the USPSTF when it comes to issues in a certain field of expertise and creates a more standardized 60-day public comment period for pending recommendations.
The final bill we lobbied for was H.R. 4632/S. 2262, the CT Colonography Screening for Colorectal Cancer Act. This bipartisan piece of legislation mandates that Medicare cover the cost of CT colonography, or virtual colonoscopy, as a colorectal cancer screening procedure. Radiologists recognize the benefit of providing patients with a minimally invasive way to be screened for colorectal cancer as screening rates for this deadly disease are currently less than 60 percent in many parts of the country.

I always look forward to the annual Capitol Hill Day, and this year was no exception. What makes the day so special for me is the stalwart relationships we have built with our Kansas representatives. In 2014, I was fortunate to help with Senator Pat Roberts’ (R-KS) re-election campaign. Earlier this year, I spent extended time with the majority of my Senators and Representatives through my participation in ACR’s Rutherford-Lavanty Government Relations Fellowship. It is a truly gratifying feeling when you know each of your federal representatives on a first-name basis and understand that they support ACR’s many advocacy goals. Fostering these types of relationships can play an integral role in passing legislation favorable to the specialty of radiology.
I was also particularly elated this year that nearly 40 percent of all Capitol Hill Day attendees were residents and fellows, proving that the leaders of tomorrow truly care about the future of radiology and want to play an active role in our specialty’s continued success.
Although ACR has one of the strongest government relations teams advocating for us year round, it is imperative that individual radiologists also make ourselves visible in Washington. Moreover, a story that personally resonates with Senators and Representatives and includes compelling facts and data to show how an issue affects their constituents can be all it takes to gain support. Our efforts in Washington really do translate to results.
To put it in perspective, 8,000 bills were introduced in Congress in 2015. Of those, 90 percent did not get a vote. However, we were able to push through the MPPR reduction, the mammography screening moratorium, and the repeal of the sustainable growth rate, in a single calendar year.
We most definitely need radiologists tirelessly reading at the workstation; they are invaluable assets to patient care. However, it is equally imperative for radiologists to solidify their position in Washington by lobbying Congress for fair reimbursement and affordable, accessible care for our patients. This active involvement in federal advocacy efforts will collectively ensure our specialty survives and thrives in the years to come.

By Amy K. Patel, MD, breast radiology fellow at Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology Washington University in St. Louis

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