SCAI-PAC Amplifies the Voice of Interventional Cardiology: 2012 Events Kick Off New Advocacy Era
January 08, 2013
This content is from the Winter 2012 issue of SCAI News & Highlights.
In the six months since SCAI formed its political action committee (PAC) to ensure the voice of Interventional Cardiology is heard, SCAI-PAC has both hosted and participated in fundraising events for candidates, in each case providing SCAI leaders with direct access to Members of Congress.
“Having a PAC that is completely focused on the challenges facing interventional cardiologists has already provided opportunities to deliver our message to elected officials who can make a difference,” said SCAI-PAC Chair Carl Tommaso, M.D., FSCAI. “SCAI-PAC is off to a great start, making sure the leaders in Congress understand our concerns about how current healthcare policies are making it difficult to provide the best care for our patients.”
In the paragraphs that follow, SCAI News & Highlights offers a state-by-state tour of SCAI-PAC’s first efforts. “We are excited to share our early accomplishments with SCAI members,” added Dr. Tommaso, “but this is just the beginning.”
At a SCAI-PAC-sponsored event in Georgia, interventional cardiologists including the Society’s 2012–13 president, J. Jeffrey Marshall, M.D., FSCAI, discussed with Rep. Dr. Tom Price (R-GA) the impact that the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) could have on Medicare patients.
“If the IPAB is not repealed, the result will be rationing of healthcare services for Medicare patients,” said Dr. Marshall. “While we are very worried about this issue, I personally feel encouraged that Rep. Price understands the issue and is fighting for our patients.”
During the meeting, Dr. Marshall conveyed SCAI’s support of the Medicare Patient Empowerment Act (H.R. 1700), which Rep. Price is cosponsoring. If passed, this bill would allow Medicare patients and physicians to contract for Medicare-covered services without penalty.
“Basically, Medicare beneficiaries would be able to use their Medicare benefits for covered services, and physicians would be allowed to bill the patient for the balance of fees not covered by Medicare,” explained Dr. Marshall. “That would be a big improvement on the current law, where the only way physicians can bill Medicare patients for additional amounts is if we opt-out of Medicare for two years.”
To date, the bill has 42 co-sponsors in the House, and a companion bill has been introduced in the Senate. SCAI believes that, given the steady reduction in Medicare fees, enacting legislation like H.R. 1700 may become the only viable way for Medicare patients to get quality care.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) spent more than 90 minutes in in-depth discussion with event organizer Thomas Tu, M.D., FSCAI, and other specialty physicians. Among topics covered was the sustainable growth rate (SGR).
“We talked candidly about how the annual threat that SGR cuts will be implemented is taking a toll on medicine,” said Dr. Tu. “I was impressed with the Senator’s deep knowledge of healthcare policy issues.”
Dr. Tu and Senator McConnell also discussed how out-of-control malpractice policy, compounded by the unfettered IPAB, will chip away at physicians’ ability to deliver the right care to each patient when they need it.
“Senator McConnell is the most powerful Republican in the Senate,” added Dr. Tu. “Making sure that he and other elected officials understand our concerns and what needs to happen so that we can deliver optimal care of our patients is inherent in SCAI’s mission. Going forward, SCAI-PAC may be the single most important tool at our disposal.”
SCAI Immediate Past President Christopher J. White, M.D., FSCAI, leveraged the SCAI-PAC to facilitate a meeting with Dr. Charles Boustany (R-LA), a cardiac surgeon who chairs the Oversight Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee. At the time he and Dr. White met the Congressman was working hard for re-election in a newly reconfigured district.
“My meeting with Rep. Boustany was in many respects reassuring,” said Dr. White. “It’s good to know that someone in Congress has an understanding of cardiovascular disease and the challenges facing physicians. With his re-election, Rep. Boustany maintains leadership of the Oversight Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee, positioning him to represent us in hearings dealing with CMS, FDA, and many other organizations that regulate how we provide care for our patients.”
The ink on the SCAI-PAC charter was barely dry before SCAI took to Capitol Hill to convey SCAI’s concerns about legislation being considered by the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health. If enacted, the proposed law would impose federal requirements for staff who must be in a cath lab. SCAI lobbyist Wayne Powell shared with the Subcommittee’s ranking member, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), the Society’s concerns that such legislation could limit the availability of cath labs in emergency situations and reduce efficiency in cath labs. At press time, the legislation had not moved forward.
Facts About PACs
No doubt about it, launching a PAC was the beginning of a new era for SCAI’s advocacy efforts, said Dr. White.
“We’ve made a commitment to keeping the PAC bipartisan, steering clear of presidential campaigns, and working with any Member of Congress who has significant interest in, or influence over, healthcare policy,” he explained. “That gives us with a lot of ground to cover, so we’ll need help from SCAI members throughout the country.”
To learn more about how you can—and can’t (there are significant legal constraints on how non-profit organizations like SCAI can operate and raise funds for their PACs)—participate, contact Wayne Powell at wpowell@SCAI.org or 202-741-9869.