ACS Chapter Grant Program supports opportunities to lobby state lawmakers

The American College of Surgeons (ACS) Chapter Lobby Day Grant Program, now in its sixth year, provides financial support for chapters’ state capital lobby days. In 2016, the program awarded 17 grants to eligible chapters.

Chapters often work with their state medical society or other specialty groups to organize an event, some organize their own lobby days, and others host dinners or other advocacy-related events. The goals range from introducing chapter members to the state legislature to pushing for, or opposing, a specific legislative proposal. These events are critical not only for grassroots advocacy, but also for establishing the ACS chapters as the voice of surgery in their state and building long-term relationships with legislators.

Following is a summary of the 17 participating chapters’ events and their accomplishments.

Alabama

The Alabama Chapter of the ACS held its annual Day at the Capitol April 6. Representing the chapter at the event were Charles B. Rodning, MD, PhD, FACS, Past-President of the Chapter and professor of surgery, University of South Alabama College of Medicine, Mobile; D. Lynn Dyess, MD, FACS, professor of surgery, University of South Alabama College of Medicine; and Lisa Beard, Executive Director, Alabama Chapter of the ACS. During the weekly meeting of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, chapter representatives engaged in a presentation on funding for the Alabama Statewide Trauma System and for the Alabama Medicaid program. The group also attended a press conference convened by Gov. Robert J. Bentley, MD (R), and Medicaid Commissioner Stephanie McGee Azar to discuss the potential impact of proposed cuts to the agency.

Alaska

The Alaska Chapter’s first Advocacy Day was held in late January. Organized by Chapter President Danny Robinette, MD, FACS, Fellows gathered in Juneau to participate in meetings with 11 legislators and several agency officials, largely to advocate for increased state trauma funding. Specifically, the Alaska Chapter asked the legislature to approve Medicaid funding to cover trauma activation fees because the state was facing a $3.5 billion budget deficit, and there were concerns that the current trauma funding would not be appropriated.

California

The three California ACS chapters joined together April 13 to participate in the California Medical Association (CMA) Annual Legislative Advocacy Day in Sacramento. Leadership from the chapters included John Maa, MD, FACS, Past-President, and Pascal Fuchshuber, MD, FACS, President-Elect, Northern California Chapter; Shirin Towfigh, MD, FACS, Immediate Past-President, Southern California Chapter; and Jon Greif, DO, FACS, San Diego Chapter. Other surgeons included James Hinsdale, MD, FACS (former CMA president); Luther Cobb, MD, FACS (former CMA president); Christina Maser, MD, FACS (Secretary-Treasurer of the Northern California Chapter); and Peter Richman, MD, FACS (President of the Los Angeles County Medical Association).

The chapters focused their advocacy on A.B. 1763, a bill that would require health care coverage without copayment for colorectal cancer screening. Surgeons met with the bill sponsor’s legislative staff, as well as members of the Assembly Health Committee, to discuss the legislation and to deliver a statement of support. This bill was passed out of the legislature but vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown (D) in September.

Connecticut

The Connecticut Chapter of the ACS joined with the Connecticut State Medical Society March 3 in Hartford to host Physicians’ Day at the Capitol 2016. Approximately 100 physicians attended, with a strong presence from the chapter. Surgeon advocates met with lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D), to advocate for legislation pertaining to opioid prescriptions, for establishing a definition of surgery, and for repeal of an ambulatory surgery tax.

Florida

The Florida Chapter of the ACS held its annual Advocacy Day February 4. Surgeons representing multiple surgical specialties, including urology, otolaryngology, vascular surgery, and obstetrics/gynecology, met with lawmakers to discuss bills addressing telemedicine and balanced billing for out-of-network and emergency care. ACS staff, representatives of the Florida Department of Health, and other advocates briefed lawmakers on health care issues in the state.

Georgia

The Georgia Society of the ACS held its lobby day in conjunction with the Medical Association of Georgia (MAG) January 27. Of the more than 60 physicians in attendance, approximately 15 were surgeons affiliated with the society. The Uniform Emergency Volunteer Health Practitioners Act model legislation was the major focus of the society when working the rope line and in conversations with legislators at the society-sponsored lunch. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal (R) in April. MAG president John Harvey, MD, FACS, an active society member, recognized the Georgia Society and the ACS for their sponsorship of the lunch through the generosity of the grant program.

Indiana

The Indiana Chapter of the ACS hosted the Annual Day at the Capitol in Indianapolis February 9. State Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer (R), Chair of the House Public Health Committee, spoke on the importance of physician-legislator interaction. In addition, Michael Brady, Director of INSPECT, the Indiana Board of Pharmacy Prescription Monitoring Program, spoke about upcoming changes to the system. John J. Wernert, MD, Secretary of the state’s Department of Family and Social Services, gave an update on Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0, the state’s Medicaid expansion program. Attendees then had the opportunity to meet with their elected officials to discuss legislation addressing opioid overdose interventions, step therapy protocols for prescription medications, and hospital employee immunizations.

Kansas

The Kansas Chapter of the ACS, in conjunction with the Kansas Medical Society, hosted a state lobby day in Topeka in January. The well-attended event included in-depth presentations on state and federal advocacy, the current state of the Kansas legislative environment, and medical liability reform. In addition to the briefings, several legislators addressed the current state of affairs in Kansas. After the briefings, members met with their state legislators to discuss legislation regarding advanced practice registered nurse scope-of-practice expansion, an indoor tanning ban for minors, and whether Kansas would expand Medicaid. The indoor tanning ban for minors was signed into law in June. The day ended with a reception for attendees and legislators.

Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Chapter of the ACS hosted its lobby day at the State Capitol in Boston on September 20. The main topic of the event was the surgical response to firearm violence. Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian moderated a discussion with Boston Police Commissioner William Evans; David King, MD, FACS, trauma surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital; Michael Hirsh, MD, FACS, division chief of pediatric surgery and trauma, University of Massachusetts Memorial Children’s Medical Center; and Eric Goralnick, MD, medical director, Emergency Preparedness at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Attendees then met with their legislators to discuss the issue further.

Metro Chicago Chapter

The Metro Chicago Chapter of the ACS sent a small group to Springfield, IL, April 13 to advocate on opioid abuse issues. One attendee, Richard A. Jorgensen MD, FACS, the DuPage County Coroner, described his experience dealing with the devastating impact of the opioid abuse epidemic. Dr. Jorgensen pointed to a bill in the state legislature that would allow health care workers to remove opiate medication from the home of hospice patients after they die, in an effort to decrease unintended access to these drugs.

New York

The New York and Brooklyn/Long Island Chapters cosponsored a lobby day with the New York Coalition of Specialty Care Physicians May 17 in Albany. More than 100 physicians participated in the event. The day began with presentations from various physicians and government affairs staff. Attendees received a legislative briefing, advocacy training, and a presentation on legislative talking points pertinent to issues before the legislature. Lobby day participants then met with their legislators to advocate on several pieces of pending legislation, including scope-of-practice expansion, opioid prescribing limits, and health care billing transparency. A bill limiting initial prescriptions of opioids to seven days was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in June.

Ohio

The Ohio Chapter of the ACS hosted its annual state legislative dinner April 19. A number of state legislators, including Senate President Keith Faber (R), and Rep. Anne Gonzales (R), Chair of the House Health and Aging Committee, discussed issues of importance to Ohio physicians. The chapter is advocating on a number of bills this session, including H.B. 261, legislation that would reform the state’s trauma system, and S.B. 129, which would improve prior authorization requirements set by health plans by establishing uniform response deadlines, requiring health plans to honor prior authorizations for a specified time frame, and allowing providers to submit requests electronically. Other issues discussed with the legislators included the state’s ongoing opiate and prescription drug abuse crisis and pending medical marijuana legalization.

Oregon

The Oregon Chapter of the ACS held its annual Day at the Capitol March 6−7 in Salem. The event began with a speech by Republican gubernatorial candidate Bud Pierce, MD, an oncologist from Salem, who expressed his views on health care in the state, including his thoughts on how the implementation of the Affordable Care Act could be improved. The following day, participants met with James Rickards, MD, chief medical officer at the Oregon Health Authority, who discussed Medicaid and coordinated care organizations, as well as rural access issues. Oregon Medical Association staff briefed participants on the health care issues that were being considered this year in the legislature, which included continued focus on health care reform and the opioid abuse epidemic. ACS staff led an in-depth discussion about the current status of opioid abuse prevention and treatment-related legislation across the country.

Tennessee

The Tennessee Chapter of the ACS joined with the Tennessee Medical Association March 1 to host the 2016 Day on the Hill in Nashville. More than 250 physicians of all specialties visited with their state legislators, attended committee hearings on legislation important to the medical community, and ate lunch with state legislators and staff. Surgeons had opportunities to discuss opioid-prescribing legislation exemptions, the Tennessee Surgical Quality Collaborative, and motorcycle helmet legislation.

Texas

The North and South Texas Chapters of the ACS  hosted their first joint Lobby Day event in Austin September 13–14. The event started with a dinner, during which attendees heard from Stacey Silverman, PhD, Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Academic Quality in the Division of Academic Quality and Workforce of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board; Rep. Trent Ashby (R); and Sen. Charles Schwertner, MD (R), an orthopaedic surgeon and Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services. The main topic of discussion was how Texas is working to increase access to graduate medical education (GME) for medical school graduates. Texas Medical Association staff briefed participants on current issues in the state legislature and provided best practices for meetings with legislators. ACS staff then discussed issues facing state legislatures around the country. Attendees concluded the event by meeting with legislative staff to advocate for continued funding for GME.

Virginia

The Virginia Chapter of the ACS, in conjunction with several other surgical societies, hosted a lobby day in Richmond February 25. The day began with a briefing and an advocacy presentation from the Virginia Medical Society on a variety of legislative and political issues, including the prospects for Medicaid expansion. After the briefing, Fellows headed to the State Capitol for meetings with their individual state legislators. These meetings were productive, and Fellows were able to advocate for prescription prior authorization reform legislation and for workers’ compensation reform.

Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Surgical Society participated in the state’s annual Doctor Day program February 10 in Madison. More than 300 physicians from more than 20 medical specialties gathered for the event. This is the first year the surgical society has participated in Doctor Day with support from the ACS Chapter Lobby Day Grant Program. During the program, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch (R) described her experience with colon cancer, and attendees were updated on the H.O.P.E. (Heroin, Opioid Prevention and Education) Agenda, which was moving through the state legislature. The surgeons then went to the Wisconsin State Capitol to meet with their legislators.

 

These events provided Fellows across the country with firsthand experience in advocating for their patients and profession, and exposed them to current issues being discussed in the state legislatures—issues that have the potential to significantly affect the medical profession. If your state is hosting an event in 2017, we strongly encourage you to attend. If you have any questions about the Lobby Day Grant Program or ACS State Affairs, contact Tara Leystra Ackerman at tleystra@facs.org or 202-672-1522.

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