MDs in Congress: Focus on Regulations, Not Legislation
Written by Editor   
Monday, November 29, 1999 09:00 AM

Physicians' strategy for lobbying Congress this year should focus on influencing the wording of regulations, not on getting laws enacted, a member of Congress said at the American Medical Association's (AMA) annual advocacy meeting.

“If I were you, one thing I'd be doing is not worrying about big legislation passing Congress," said Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.)  Instead, “I’d be getting to know Andy [Slavitt, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)] very, very well," especially since Slavitt's agency will be busy implementing the new physician payment system that will replace the much-maligned sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula.  Because it's a presidential election year, "It's not going to be a year where we [in Congress] try to throw long passes and score big touchdowns; it's going to be a year where we try to get the things done that need done and don't interfere with the presidential election process," he said.

Slavic also spoke to the physicians, telling them that although new medical technologies like "wearables and shareables" have promise, "we can't devalue the most important and precious element of healthcare: the time the patient has with their physician. We believe we need to move back to a place where doctors talk to patients about their health, not just paying for technology, devices, surgeries, and prescriptions," he said.

"It's about being publicly transparent and metric-driven," Slavitt said. "We've embraced this approach also as we've implemented new payment models. Our newly launched Next Generation ACO model is a good example -- it includes innovative options like telemedicine, home visits, and direct patient incentive and engagement options. We are also soliciting an unprecedented amount of physician input as we implement the [Merit-based Incentive Payment System]."

AMA president agreed that Slavic had been "very responsive" to physician concerns. "He is concerned that CMS has lost physicians and there's a need to listen to doctors more closely," Stack said. "He has demonstrated not just through words but through actions that he's willing to work with us."