February 2019 President’s Message

February 2019 President’s Message

Time visiting with legislators forges sense of gratefulness

by Michael Lievens, MD

As I returned home from the AMA’s National Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C., this month, I was struck by one emotion: gratitude.

I am grateful to live in the United States, which seems to me to be the best nation on Earth, despite our problems. Our government often may be dysfunctional, but it really is representative. The people I met in Washington are working hard to make things better for all of us, even if the results we see, hear and read about don’t always meet our expectations.

I am grateful for the many bright, young congressional staff members who work long hours doing the often tedious, painstaking work of the Congress.

I am grateful to be in a profession that directly helps other human beings, on a daily basis. It is a constantly challenging profession in which we often can see the results of our efforts in the lives of those we serve. Very few professions can say that ñ especially government.

I am grateful the AMA is representing our profession, and that physicians have the opportunity to speak with our legislators in order to inform the decisions they make. I do believe they have an interest in our positions on issues. Each member we met seemed sincere ñ and in some cases extremely well informed ñ about issues important to doctors.

We heard a presentation by the Alex Azar, the secretary of Health and Human Services. He is very intelligent and well-versed on the issues. I liked much of what he had to say, with a few exceptions. He is a former executive of a pharmaceutical company and a former lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry.

Secretary Azar spoke about the possibility (going forward) of some things needing prior authorization in Medicare, which we as a profession strongly oppose. We made sure to let our legislators know how prior authorization is eating up time and other resources that we can’t afford to be wasting.

Many things for which we are grateful come with great responsibility. In addition to the taxes we pay, we have a duty. We must care for our patients and work to make our health care facilities better.

For the benefit of our profession, and our patients, we have a duty to stay active and informed. We must communicate with our elected representatives in Washington, Topeka and locally on topics that impact patient care.

We heard directly from congressional staff about how they are constantly getting calls and visits from the pharmaceutical and insurance industries, pushing their respective agendas. We also learned that emails from us, the doctors, are read and considered.

I urge all of us to send at least one email a quarter to an elected official – federal, state, local, or all of the above – about a topic you find important. Or perhaps simply thank them for their work on a particular issue. Let them know we are watching, caring and voting. Let them know what we think is important and why.

I believe our profession is respected enough that most people, even members of Congress, will actually read a letter from a doctor ñ especially one in your own words, not a form letter. You can find the names and addresses of our elected officials in the publications section of the MSSC website at mssconline.com.

Lastly, be grateful. If you are like me, you can always find things to gripe and complain about, especially when it comes to our government. But be grateful anyway. We really do have many reasons to be thankful.