Last week I had the pleasure of joining Scott Colby, the NHMS Executive Vice President and Dr. Gary Woods, the NHMS Delegate to the AMA, for the annual AMA National Advocacy Conference and Lobby Day in Washington, DC.  Each year the AMA sponsors this conference to update us on current national policy issues and to provide us an opportunity to meet with our congressional delegation to discuss those issues.  We learned about: the challenges of paying for Graduate Medical Education and workforce adequacy; proposals coming out of the CMS Innovations Center; and that everyone wants to fix the SGR but no one believes a permanent fix is possible... for now.  The conference was informational and prepared us to meet with our delegation.

The advantage of being from a small state is that we were able to meet with our entire delegation -- and we were able to meet with Senator Shaheen and Representative Kuster directly (and are very grateful they took time out to meet with us).  We had productive conversations in all four offices.  Since it is early in the legislative session, we had two primary goals: 1) Ask for several specific legislative actions and 2) Raise awareness of issues that are not currently in the spotlight but are important none the less.

Our specific asks included the SGR fix, and for our delegation to work together to introduce meaningful "I'm Sorry" legislation at the federal level.  As you may recall, the "I'm Sorry" bill in NH got watered down to virtually nothing last session and was not enacted.  While they all endorse the idea of fixing the SGR, they all felt we'd be back at it again next year.  They all were very open to the idea of working on "I'm Sorry" legislation.  We'll keep you posted about any progress on these fronts.

The other issues we addressed included: increasing funding for mental health services; climate change and its impact on health; Medicaid expansion; and maintaining support for the federal financial commitment to expansion.  We learned that Representative Carol Shea-Porter is sponsoring HR 628 the "Mental Health in Schools Act" to enhance screening for mental illness in our nation's schools.  I am hopeful that our delegation will represent us well on these healthcare issues in these troubling financial times.

The trip was not all business, though -- Scott, our AMA field representative Joel Riemer, and I did break away for a run through the monuments.  Although I have seen them many times, they remain inspirational to me and I saw for the first time the World War II Memorial reminding us what we can do when we pull together as a nation in difficult times.  The Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial inspired me to keep pushing for justice in healthcare.  Next time you visit DC, be sure to check them'll be glad you did!  I'll leave you with one quote inscribed on the MLK memorial that resonated with me personally and as a doctor:

"Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in."

                        -Martin Luther King, Jr


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