Earlier this week, more than 40 ASCRS ophthalmologists and ASOA practice administrators representing 25 states took time out of their busy schedules to attend the 2019 Alliance of Specialty Medicine Legislative Fly-In and engage in one of the three pillars of the ASCRS mission: advocacy. The annual advocacy conference brings together the 15 national medical specialty societies that make up the Alliance to Washington, D.C., to lobby for key policy priorities. Attendees meet with their Senators and Representatives on Capitol Hill to outline important issues and ask them to take action. This year’s Fly-In included five ASCRS residents who attended via the fourth annual ASCRS Young Eye Surgeons (YES) Legislative Fly-In Scholarship Program, designed to enhance younger members’ understanding of public policy issues affecting ophthalmology and provide networking opportunities with established ASCRS members, including leadership. ASCRS President Nick Mamalis, MD; ASCRS Vice President/President-Elect Terry Kim, MD; and ASOA President-Elect Deborah Davis, COE, were among the attendees.
Topping the list of this year’s legislative priorities were urging Congress to maintain a viable fee-for-service option in Medicare Part B; extending positive physician payment updates to the Medicare physician payment conversion factor included in MACRA, as well as 5% bonus payments for participation in advanced APMs; improving the Quality Payment Program to ensure opportunities and adequate incentives for specialists; addressing various barriers to specialty care, including prior authorization and step therapy; and more. During meetings with legislators and their aides, Fly-In attendees outlined these issues and shared personal anecdotes to illustrate how healthcare policy affects their own practice and patients.
In addition to their Hill meetings, attendees of the Fly-In were treated to an impressive line-up of speakers, including Reps. Raul Ruiz, MD (D-CA), Ami Bera, MD (D-CA), Lauren Underwood, MSN, MPH, RN (D-IL), John Joyce, MD (R-PA), Mark Green, MD (R-TN), Mike Kelly (R-PA), Sens. Rand Paul, MD (R-KY) and Bill Cassidy, MD (R-LA), Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, and Chris Wallace, award-winning veteran journalist and host of FOX News Sunday.
Dr. Mamalis served as moderator during the Tuesday morning program, which preceded the Congressional visits on the Hill, and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) spoke to attendees at an Alliance-hosted fundraising event after the Hill meetings.
The annual two-day Fly-In has become increasingly popular and provides an excellent opportunity to enhance members’ understanding of public policy issues affecting ophthalmology and other specialties, as well as enable them to participate directly in the political process. Members who are interested in attending next year or getting more involved in other grassroots advocacy efforts should contact Tami O’Brien, manager of PAC and grassroots, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 703-591-2220.