Emergency physicians are in the Nation’s Capital advocating on behalf of their profession and their patients. After battling the COVID-19 pandemic for more than a year, emergency physicians have a unique and vital perspective of Congress can do to fortify a specialty under unprecedented strain.
On behalf of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), our physician advocates are sounding the alarm on three of the most pressing issues facing emergency medicine and patients.
Every day, emergency physicians see the devastating effects of the opioid epidemic on the communities they serve. And the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the problem.
Individuals with opioid use disorders often seek care in the emergency department, and one of the most effective means emergency physicians have to aid these patients is by using buprenorphine as part of a medication-assisted treatment protocol.
Despite its safety and effectiveness, there are currently significant barriers to buprenorphine's use, the greatest of which is the “X-waiver” requirement mandated by the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000. As a result, the treatment of OUD remains unnecessarily isolated from normal health care delivery.
COVID-19 is an unprecedented modern public health crisis, and beyond the loss of life, it has also taken a toll on the mental health and well-being of those who have been selflessly providing care to patients.
For physicians, seeking treatment for mental health can spark legitimate fear of a loss of licensure, loss of income, or other career setback due to the stigma surrounding mental health. This leaves many with no better option than to suffer in silence.
Ensuring clinicians can freely seek mental health services without fear of professional setback means such issues can be resolved. Furthermore, physician mental health is essential to ensuring that patients have a strong and capable heath care workforce to provide the care they need. Therefore, we urge Congress to pass the “Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act” (S.610/H.R. 1667).
In addition to the mental and physical toll the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on emergency physicians and other frontline providers, looming payment cuts threaten the health care safety net that is already financially strained.
Without congressional action, emergency physicians and other physician specialties will see major cuts to Medicare payments, which will ultimately endanger access to the lifesaving care that patients need and deserve.
ACEP urges lawmakers to protect patient access to lifesaving emergency care and to take action before the end of the year to prevent significant cuts to Medicare payments due to sequestration and Medicare’s “budget neutrality” requirements.
An important part of advocacy is ACEP’s political action committee, NEMPAC. NEMPAC is a critical tool to help ACEP promote our legislative goals and express the concerns of emergency medicine to Members of Congress. It is the financial vehicle through which ACEP members can support the election or re-election of federal candidates who share their commitment to emergency medicine. The PAC helps build relationships with new members of Congress and existing friends, so when issues arise, we have elected champions we can work with to find bipartisan solutions.