ACR-RFS Goes to Washington
Left to right: Michael J. Lee, MD, Richard Goldman, MD, FACR, and Amir Pirmoazen, MD
ACR 2018 Hill Day was the perfect way to punctuate an incredibly successful meeting. Hundreds of residents and fellows traveled to Washington, D.C., for a dizzying five days of programming, including hearing from the smartest and most fearless minds in radiology, querying expert panels, electing brand new leadership, and reuniting with old friends and meeting countless others. The meeting culminated with us joining our respective state caucuses, donning our most persuasive business attire, and heading to Capitol Hill.
More than 450 ACR members, including attendings, residents and fellows, and even a smattering of medical students, met with over 275 congressional offices to advocate on behalf of their patients. This year, our priority was to ensure that our patients had access to the full array of colon cancer screening options given the highest grade by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, including CT colonography. While CT colonography is required by the Affordable Care Act to be covered by most third-party plans, it isn’t covered by Medicare — limiting access to this exam for patients 65 and over. As only three in five eligible adults in the United States are screened appropriately for colon cancer, we argued that our patients deserve access to whichever screening modality is right for them.
A second focus of our advocacy efforts was the Medicare Access to Radiology Care Act (MARCA). MARCA establishes the role of the radiology assistant (RA), to help perform diagnostic services under the direct supervision of a radiologist (as opposed to personal supervision, the current standard, which requires the radiologist to be in the room). With the ever-increasing demand for imaging services, RAs can play a critical role in enhancing a radiology department or practice’s overall efficiency and improving access to care.
While there was lively discussion during the Council meetings regarding the RA’s scope of practice, many concerns were alleviated by the assurances provided by stakeholders from the American Society of Radiologic Technologists and others that the role of the RA is both clearly defined and mutually understood, and includes an absolute ban on interpreting images. In the end, this issue served as a hopeful reminder of how the ACR operates. After an impassioned, candid, and thorough conversation, all ACR members provided a unified front as they met with their legislators in the name of improving access to patient care.
Now back home in Los Angeles, I can’t help but reflect on that feeling of being in the thick of the action, working together with my fellow ACR members to make sure that the future radiology practice we envision is the one that prevails. I encourage anyone who wasn’t able to make it this year to do what you can to get more involved with the College’s advocacy efforts. Reach out to your state chapter, engage on Twitter, join a RFS subcommittee, join the Radiology Advocacy Network (email me for more information), or all of the above. Let’s keep the momentum going until next year!