MSSC and KMS physicians go to Washington
by Maurice Duggins, MD —
I love Jimmy Stewart movies. One of his movies is “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” It’s the story of an idealistic young man who goes to Washington, D.C., engages with senators and fights the corruption found there.
Needless to say, MSSC President-elect Dr. Howard Chang’s and my recent trip to Washington didn’t come close to the magnitude or significance of this movie’s plot. It was, however, important for us to team up with our colleagues from the Kansas Medical Society – Drs. Aron Fast and LaDona Schmidt – and meet with our U.S. senators and representatives.
As I wrote about in the last newsletter, Medicaid remains a problem. Medicaid physician reimbursements have not had an increase in the past 17 years. Even though this is primarily a state issue, we asked our congressional delegation to support KMS’ request that the Kansas Legislature increase reimbursements by at least 5%.
We also emphasized the importance of increasing Medicare reimbursements. This year’s 2% cut hurts physicians doing their best to take care of this vulnerable population. When you factor in inflation, Medicare physician payments dropped by 22% from 2001 to 2021. That’s an insult to physician caregivers and adds insult to injury.
Kansas still needs rural physicians as well as those wanting to serve underserved communities in urban areas. We advocated for more residency positions to help fill this gap. Though an omnibus bill last December approved 200 new residency positions – half of them in psychiatry to assist in the ongoing mental health crisis – additional positions are needed in primary care aimed at filling the rural and urban gaps. Kansas residency programs, including those in Wichita, have a good track record of helping meet this need.
We also asked for our delegation’s support in fighting the opioid crisis, particularly the surge in fentanyl overdoses. And we urged them to support legislation that would curb prior authorizations, which burn so much time and waste so many practice resources to get patients what they were promised by their insurance companies.
We are well aware of the needs of our patients and what is best for their care. Yet we and our staff are taken away from that care to try to convince people less knowledgeable in health care of the purpose of the authorizations. This loss of time and money is compounded by the emotional insults felt by caregivers.
I want to thank Sens. Jerry Moran and Roger Marshall and the staff members of Reps. Ron Estes, Jake LaTurner, Tracey Mann and Sharice Davids for meeting with us and for allowing us to air our concerns. I also appreciate Nancy Sullivan of KMS and MSSC Executive Director Phillip Brownlee for facilitating the meetings.
Our trip to Washington didn’t have the Hollywood ending of Jimmy Stewart’s movie. But change in D.C. (and Topeka) is a slow process that requires forming relationships – one trip at a time.