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ACR Capitol Hill Day: A Resident’s Experience
As ACR members headed to the yearly advocacy event, one of the College’s newest physicians reports back on an eventful day in Washington, D.C.
On a hot Wednesday in May, more than 630 radiologists from across the country visited the congressional offices of more than 290 members of Congress.
Our objectives for the day were three-fold: to continue a long-standing goal of the College to help our representatives in Congress understand the role of radiologists as members of the health care team; to thank many of our representatives for their work on our behalf, including on the recent repeal of the sustainable growth rate legislation (finally!) and coverage of CT lung screening; and to encourage our representatives to bring more transparency to the United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) and repeal the multiple procedure payment reduction (MPPR). As I look back on my experience from that day, I realize just how meaningful it was.
In preparing for the Capitol Hill visit, I remember thinking to myself, “What influence can a radiology resident, a first-year resident at that, have on anything that happens in national politics?” Especially in the age of endless campaign cycles and the domination of super PACs, it can be hard to feel anything but disillusioned. During my Capitol Hill experience, I learned this is far from reality. Instead, I realized that the old adage is true: all politics is local.
As a resident, it was initially difficult to come up with relatable, compelling descriptions for both of the issues we were on Capitol Hill to talk about (MPPR reform and USPSTF transparency). Like most residents and, to some extent, many practicing radiologists, I feel pretty far removed from the medical billing and reimbursement process from day-to-day. As a result, I initially found it difficult to describe how these issues affect our department and our profession as a whole. Then I remembered patient stories from a breast imager in our department. We detect breast cancer in patients who are 40-49 years old and avoid disfiguring surgery and, in some cases, even almost certain death. We also interact with patients who face a choice between getting a screening mammogram and having enough money to support their families. It is these kinds of personal stories that our representatives can relate to and build consensus behind.
Relatable stories around the MPPR are harder to come by. Luckily, a co-resident had the perfect explanation, comparing the issue to a simple real-world analogy. When you hire a painter to paint two rooms in your house and agree on a set price for each room, it would be preposterous and unfair to pay 25 percent less for the second room. Explaining MPPR in these more tangible terms was instrumental in helping our representatives understand the real issue at stake.
Before my hill visit, I often wondered what I can do to make a difference. On “Hill Day,” I found my answer. Advocacy is our portal to influencing the political process. We all know that many interests — including insurance companies, lawyers, and other medical specialties — have lobbyists working every day in Washington, D.C. It is up to you to make your voice heard. If you don’t, it is the interests of these groups that will become law. So write to your representative explaining the amount of training and expertise that goes into what we do every day to provide the best possible care for our patients. Go to your state capitol. Make sure to attend next year’s Capitol Hill day and address your congressperson face-to-face in Washington, D.C., and demand changes. Make your voice heard so that we can provide the best possible care for our patients and chart a viable future for our specialty.
By Naiim Ali, MD, radiology resident at University of Vermont Medical Center and ACR-RFS advocacy liaison/AMA delegate