The situation on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., in May was surreal. As we have been doing for more than 20 years, emergency physicians from ACEP made their annual trek to D.C. to meet with members of Congress and their staff and talk about the issues affecting the practice of emergency medicine during the ACEP Legislative Advocacy Conference and Leadership Summit (LAC). But for the first time in 14 years, something was different. Yes, for the first time in a very long time, members of Congress and staffers didn’t have to sheepishly lower their eyes and again try to explain why they still hadn’t fixed the flawed Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) Medicare payment formula. Instead of more wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth, “thank you” and “you’re welcome” were shared many times across the halls of the Capitol. After 14 years and 17 temporary patches, the flawed SGR formula was finally gone. Although I tend to be a little more reserved than most, I was tempted to go skipping down the halls of the Capitol, arm in arm with ACEP President Mike Gerardi, MD, FAAP, FACEP; Gordon Wheeler, ACEP associate executive director for public affairs; and Peter Jacoby, MD, FACEP, chair of the National Emergency Medicine Political Action Committee (NEMPAC) Board of Trustees, singing, “Ding-dong! The SGR is dead!” So with the SGR gone, what did we talk about with members of Congress? Real policy issues for a change! Now that the issue of Medicare payments is off the table (at least temporarily until we have to figure out this MIPS, or merit-based incentive payment system, thing), we could actually talk with Congress about addressing the day-to-day real-world challenges that affect how we practice our craft.
Although the conference didn’t officially start until Monday, May 4, I want to give props to the Emergency Medicine Residents’ Association (EMRA) and the ACEP Young Physicians Section (YPS), who really started the action on Sunday with their Leadership and Advocacy Essentials program. This half-day session included great presentations in a “rapid-fire” 30-minute format from Jasmeet Dhaliwal, MD, MPH, EMRA’s legislative director who did an “Intro to Health Policy Basics talk;” Aimee Moulin, MD, who gave straightforward information with her “Stop the Madness! Treating Patients With Mental Illness in the ED” talk; and Paul Kivela, MD, MBA, FACEP, from the ACEP Board of Directors, closing the day with “The Roadmap to Getting Involved.”