ACEP Works With Health Care Reform Leaders

ACEP News
August 2009

By Christie L. Carter
ACEP News Contributing Writer

The health care reform discussion taking place on Capitol Hill is broad and all-encompassing, and trying to solve all that ails our country's health care system will not be easy. Ensuring that all sides of each issue are heard will be even tougher. That's why ACEP's Washington office is making its presence felt in Washington, working directly with the House and Senate committees responsible for developing health care reform legislation.

"We've been trying to make sure that, as our members of Congress focus on some of the broader areas of this legislation, that they remember as well the critical need to address many of the issues we've been talking about for years as they relate to emergency medicine," said Gordon Wheeler, ACEP's associate executive director for public affairs, who leads ACEP's Washington office. Mr. Wheeler cites emergency department crowding and boarding, medical liability challenges, and a lack of specialists willing to provide emergency care as prominent issues he hopes will be addressed in upcoming health care reform.

Many of emergency medicine's biggest roadblocks to providing care are addressed in the ACEP-supported Access to Emergency Medical Services Act of 2009.

"We've talked with both the Senate and the House, urging them to include provisions of this legislation in the health care reform--particularly the provision related to boarding and crowding," said Mr. Wheeler. "We really believe that if we can come to grips with that challenge in emergency departments, we can more effectively and safely treat patients."

ACEP's second legislative health care reform goal is for a group of key stakeholders to be convened and charged with reviewing and suggesting solutions to improve the overall bigger picture of health care nationwide.

"We're calling for a commission composed of members from both Congress and the administration to examine impediments to the delivery of emergency care from a national perspective as opposed to a local approach," said Mr. Wheeler. That leads directly to ACEP's third legislative goal: the regionalization of trauma and emergency care.

"We need health care reform to recognize another challenge we have, which is working with our on-call panels and specialists to ensure that when patients come into emergency departments, we have the necessary specialists available to provide care," Mr. Wheeler continued. "Right now, we don't have a good distribution of these services, nor in some cases the ability to get specialists to come into the emergency department."

With an adequate regionalization of specialties, for example, a hand surgeon may cover four states, with everyone in the health system being fully aware of where to go for that service.

The Access to Emergency Medical Services Act of 2009 now has bipartisan support in the House and Senate, with more than 120 legislators cosponsoring the bill. But ACEP's Washington office needs additional support from ACEP members, said Mr. Wheeler.

"It's vital to build a critical mass of support behind this legislation with health care reform being front and center on the floor of Congress this summer," he said. "If your congressional member is not cosponsoring this bill, we urge you to get in touch with him or her and explain why this is important to you, your patients, and the future of emergency medicine." 

For more information on ACEP's letter-writing campaign and other ways you can make a difference in the future of health care reform and emergency medicine, visit www.acep.org/advocacy.

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