Commentary

ACOG Congressional Leadership Conference Legislative Actions


 

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists 31st annual Congressional Leadership Conference (CLC) involved discussion of bills affecting women’s health care, graduate medical education, repeal of the Independent Payment Advisory Board, (IPAB) and repeal of the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR).

Twelve Representatives and one Senator who came from Capitol Hill discussed these bills with the 330 ob.gyns. who attended the CLC (including 122 junior fellows).

Dr. Constance J. Bohon

Also included in the first 2 days of the conference was expert advice on how to advocate, provided by specialists and our own ACOG president James T. Breeden, who role-played as a senator being lobbied by ob.gyns.

Held March 3-5, 2013, in Washington, the CLC also gave the attendees the opportunity to visit their Representatives and Senators with requests for action on specific legislation.

The first "ask" was for cosponsorship of the Women’s Health Resolution SR 60 sponsored by senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and HR 94, sponsored by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). Each of these resolutions endorses supportive efforts to ensure that women’s health is a priority in Congress and will be addressed positively. Specifically included is access to affordable insurance coverage for pregnancy care and access to contraception and other preventive services. It also opposes legislation that is harmful to women’s health and interferes with the patient-provider relationship.

The second "ask" was for support of HR 574, the Medicare Physician Payment Innovation Act of 2013, introduced by Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA) and Rep. Joe Heck, D.O. (R-NV). Sponsorship for a companion bill in the Senate was the "ask" for senators because there is no comparable bill in the Senate. HR 574 repeals the SGR, which is a formula that establishes the annual goal for the cost of physician services in Medicare. If the costs are greater than budgeted, an occurrence every year since 2002, the reimbursement for physicians is cut. Every year this has happened, Congress has blocked the payment cut. The outcome of this action is an increasing cost overrun that is currently $138 billion. One year ago, it was $316 billion, so now is the time to act. This bill encourages the development of new payment and delivery models with a focus on quality, efficiency, and patient outcomes. Current best-practice models would be evaluated to determine the best system for high quality and high value care. With the SGR in place, increasing numbers of physicians are planning to opt out of Medicare, thus decreasing access to care for many patients.

The final "ask" was for cosponsorship of the Quality Care for Moms and Babies Act of 2013, HR 896, sponsored by Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Act S 425 cosponsored by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA). These bills allocate $15 million for the development and growth of collaboratives that help improve the health of mothers and babies and reduce health care costs. The collaboratives would encourage projects such as those that have been designed to increase breast feeding and decrease the number of cesarean sections performed. The bill also authorizes $16 million to facilitate a quality measurement program that includes collection of data through electronic health records.

Forty-nine states as well as Puerto Rico and Canada were represented at the conference.

The next CLC is scheduled for March 2-4, 2014.

Dr. Bohon is an ob.gyn in private practice in Washington. She is a member of the Ob.Gyn. News Editorial Advisory Board. She said that she had no relevant financial disclosures.

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