May 15, 2019

Councillor’s Corner

Summarizing the latest advocacy and policy news

By John Corker, MD, YPS Councillor, and Ben Karfunkle, MD, YPS Alternate Councillor

It was great to see so many of you on Capitol Hill two weeks ago at ACEP’s annual Leadership and Advocacy Conference (LAC19). Hundreds of emergency physicians from across the country showed up to learn, network and educate our elected officials about the issues most important to our patients and us. In total, we organized roughly 350 meetings with members of Congress in one day!
 
We focused on two main policy initiatives during our Hill visits:

  1. We discussed ACEP’s framework for what we feel any successful Out-of-Network (OON) billing legislation should include. Most importantly, we want to take patients out of the middle by establishing a clear, fair “baseball-style” arbitration process for disputed charges, and we want existing patient protection legislative language in the ACA changed to include deductible parity in and out of network. ACEP's advocacy team has been in the fight on this surprise billing issue for more than a year now - you can read all of the backstory on the surprise billing page to see where we started and where we are now. 
  2. We started drumming up support for H.R. 2519, introduced by Congressman Raul Ruiz, MD, in early May, authorizing the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide grant funding for innovative programs to secure adequate care and follow up for our patients presenting to the ED with acute mental health emergencies. The corresponding bill in the Senate is S. 1334. Co-sponsorships are forthcoming.

Ohio Chabot Hill Visit ACEP LAC.jpg

Above: Dr. Justin Coomes, Dr. John Corker, Congressman Steve Chabot (R-OH 1st district), Dr. Matthew Sanders, Dr. Hannah Hughes pose for a photo after their meeting during LAC19. 

On Sunday afternoon, our YPS held its wildly successful annual “Health Policy Primer” to bring first-time attendees up to speed on the hottest topics and tools of the trade for a business trip inside the beltway. Following our Primer, attendees had an opportunity to relax, enjoy a few drinks and share stories from the trenches with young emergency physicians from across the country at our YPS networking event.
 
Just two days after we left, President Trump made his own set of principles on the OON billing issue public, and ACEP swiftly responded, reiterating exactly what we feel our patients and colleagues deserve in a resolution to this critical issue.

ACEP appreciates the White House weighing in on this important issue and welcomes congressional action to address surprise medical bills. Emergency physicians strongly support taking patients out of the middle of billing disputes between insurers and out-of-network medical providers. Patients cannot choose where and when they will need emergency care and should not be punished financially in an emergency situation. 

ACEP shares the Administration's view that improving transparency is critical to stopping surprise bills— patients need to fully understand the limits of their insurance coverage. Still, the principles the White House laid out do not go far enough to protect patients.

- ACEP President Vidor Friedman, MD, FACEP


In the meantime, the House passed a bill ceremonially opposing short-term, limited duration insurance (STLDI) plans and other types of health insurance plans that do not provide consumer protections contained in Title I of the ACA (passed along party lines). Of course, this legislation is unlikely to be considered in the Senate and will surely be vetoed by President Trump if it should make its way to his desk.
 
The House also passed two drug pricing bills that will require more transparency into the FDA approval and pricing of biologics. Clearly, our LAC visits inspired the House to get busy!
 
Next month, Ben and I will begin seeking ideas for internal ACEP policy initiatives to be discussed at our ACEP Council Meeting in Denver this Fall. What problems do you face every day in your ED on which you’d like ACEP to take a stand? What larger population and public health issues do you feel need to be addressed? Ben and I can help you fight for what you believe in on the floor of the ACEP Assembly.
 
That’s all for this month. Please stay in touch, and don’t hesitate to reach out our YPS group with questions.  Keep up the great work, everyone, and thank you for all that you do.