October 19, 2016 | Charles Beale, MD
My second year as an FIT at ACC's Legislative Conference has proven to be even more rewarding than my first. Last year I found myself insecure and almost fumbling over words trying to explain why the ACC wanted to be involved in MACRA, the new payment model during my visit to Capitol Hill.
This year was quite different. I had a new-found confidence entering the conference, knowing the relative lay of the land. For those unfamiliar with ACC's Legislative Conference, it serves as a voice of the ACC in Washington, DC, representing the legislative interests of all cardiologists from academia to small and large private practice groups. The conference is a three-day event in which we discuss and learn more about our "talking points," and on the final day, we meet our elected officials on the Hill.
My personal goals were to be well-versed for our big day on the Hill and to avoid any embarrassment with our members of Congress, or the leadership of the ACC. My first introduction at the conference came right as I walked into the Fairmont Hotel. After a long site-seeing bike tour of the monuments, I walked into the Fairmont to one of my favorite attendings calling me over to meet someone. I was introduced to the president-elect of the ACC, Mary Norine Walsh, MD, FACC. Despite her incredibly affable, and approachable nature, I could not help but feel a bit embarrassed.
Nonetheless, the conference kicked off with an ACCPAC sponsored reception with best- selling author and presidential historian Michael Beschloss. He wooed the crowd with anecdotes of U.S. Presidents, primarily President Lyndon B. Johnson. The night flew by with laughter and it allowed for a relaxed atmosphere where old friends and new could meet and chat.
The next day's atmosphere was a bit more focused as it was a day of training and education for all to review our three major talking points: Continued ACC involvement in the implementation of MACRA, increased funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and members of the cardiovascular team to oversee cardiac rehabilitation programs independently. Our day was well-planned with multiple lectures to prepare us for our day of discussion. Our greatest challenge was trying to understand MACRA. In brief, it is the future Medicare payment system, which will begin collecting data as early as January 2017. This payment model will transition the current billing method to one focused on reimbursement for quality. This lead to all sorts of Socratic debates outside the major conference room with fellows and attendings from Alaska to Puerto Rico. These discussions, rather the people met during these discussions is truly what makes a conference spectacular.
The final day entailed visiting Capitol Hill and meeting our elected officials. The state of Rhode Island has two senators and two members of the House of Representatives. Our meetings went rather smooth, met with such robust interest. I was rather impressed by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse's (D-RI) deep interest in the state of the health care in Rhode Island. This should not have surprised me, however, as Senator Reed the year before was incredibly curious about the care of our veterans. I was humbled by the overall eagerness to listen to a relatively young group in cardiology.
The legislative conference was a remarkable experience and incredibly insightful of how our legislative process works. With great pride, I discussed my day on the "Hill" to whomever was available when I returned home. I boosted about my experience, as you see it is not every day one can say they meet with their members of Congress to discuss the "issues." The conference also served as a remarkable stepping stone to bring the dialogue of the conference back to the state I so proudly represent.
This article was authored by Charles Beale, MD, a Fellow in Training (FIT) at Brown University, and an FIT Representative for ACC's Rhode Island Chapter.