Doctors: End regulatory penalty tsunami now

Hundreds of physicians are in Washington this week to directly ask lawmakers for relief from regulations impacting their ability to care for Medicare beneficiaries. On the agenda for discussion during face-to-face meetings with members of Congress: changes in the EHR meaningful use program, the Physician Quality Reporting System, the value-based modifier and physician payment under Medicare.

"We're here because physicians should spend more time with patients and less time navigating red tape," said American Medical Association President Robert Wah, MD, during an address kicking off the AMA-organized National Advocacy Conference.

The event comes with a little more than a month remaining before the current Medicare payment patch is set to expire. Without Congressional action, Medicare physicians face a 21 percent reimbursement cut. In a recent commentary, Wah urged for passage of a permanent bill that would fix the payment mechanism, provide incentives for better care coordination and lower total healthcare spending.

Aside from regulatory topics, physicians are expected to spend time educating legislators on the growing problem of prescription drug abuse. "To tackle substance use disorder, we need three things: increased access to life-saving overdose prevention medications like naloxone, Good Samaritan protections, and increased access to addiction treatment and recovery programs," said Steven Stack, MD, president-elect of AMA.

Conference attendee Robert Goldberg, DO, making his twelfth advocacy visit to Capitol Hill, said it's also important for physicians to hear the opinions of the people they are trying to influence.

"As solid as our arguments are, and as firmly as we believe in them, they're pointless if we are unable to see the wants and fears of the constituents our legislators have to deal with," he told AMA Wire.

The National Advocacy Conference runs through Wednesday.