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    Urologists 'demand to be heard' at Capitol Hill event


    Urologists at the JAC urged Congress to:

    • do away with the Independent Payment Advisory Board
    • redesign the current payment system, creating a permanent 'doc fix'
    • eliminate regulatory roadblocks to EHR adoption
    • oppose actions that would eliminate/modify the in-office ancillary exception under the Stark law
    • support a National Commission on Urotrauma and the Prostate Research, Outreach, Screening, Testing, Access, and Treatment Effectiveness Act of 2011

    Washington—Determined to defend their profession and their practices, some 180 urologists from 39 states across the nation came to Washington in late March for the 2011 Joint Advocacy Conference, sponsored by the AUA and the American Association of Clinical Urologists (AACU).

    The March 27-29 event featured two full days of issue discussions, briefings, and addresses by lawmakers, health policy experts, and government officials, as well as one day of face-to-face meetings with lawmakers and key legislative staff members. All told, 205 such meetings were held.

    "I am stunned and extremely happy with this," said Karen Lencoski, JD, MBA, the AUA's government relations and advocacy manager. "But given all that has happened over the last couple of years with health care reform and other key issues, there is a lot more that can happen to physicians, and they are demanding that their voices be heard."

    "We are so happy with the success of the 2011 Joint Advocacy Conference," commented Joe Arite, AACU associate director. "The general meaning of the word 'advocacy' is to stand up for and defend the rights of oneself and/or others. That's why we went to DC. We were there to stand up with one voice for our profession and the patients we serve."

    As William F. Gee, MD, a urologist in private practice in Lexington, KY, and the AUA's representative to the AMA Relative Value Scale Update Committee, put it: "Sometimes, if you're not at the table, you may be on the menu.

    "Urologists owe a debt of thanks to their 180 colleagues from around the country who took the time away from their busy practices to attend the Joint Advocacy Conference and 'be at the table,' letting urology's voice be heard on Capitol Hill."

    William F. Gee, MD
    One of Dr. Gee's meetings was with Rep. Geoff Davis (R-KY), and he was pleased with the result.

    "He is a Republican, but not as negative as some of the talking heads on TV," Dr. Gee said. "He wants people to come together to get rid of some of the bad things in the health care reform law. He is taking a reasonable approach."

    Among those "bad things" in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) that Dr. Gee and his colleagues urged Congress to ditch during their Washington visit is the Independent Payment Advisory Board, created to reduce the cost of Medicare (also see, "Payment advisory board foes press for repeal").

    Karen Lencoski, JD, MBA
    "We need to get rid of that completely," Dr. Gee said. "All of the members of Congress and senators, and their staff, are very much attuned to this. That was encouraging."

    However, conference attendee Mark Edney, MD, a private practice urologist from Salisbury, MD, said staff policy directors for Maryland's two Democratic senators, Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski, weren't quite as receptive as they defended the overall objectives of the PPACA, and were focused on increasing access to care.

    "But we told them that you can cover everybody you want, but if you lose physicians' participation in the Medicare program, then you have created a barrier to access to care," Dr. Edney said.


    Bob Gatty
    Bob Gatty, a former congressional aide, covers news from Washington for Urology Times.


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