June 04, 2020

ACR Uses Social Media to Keep the Spirit of Capitol Hill Day Alive

Hundreds of emails and tweets, along with virtual meetings and conference calls, enabled radiologists to connect with their members of Congress during May Advocacy Month — to gain support for the American College of Radiology® (ACR®) legislative agenda.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s effort was a departure from previous ACR Capitol Hill Days. Over the past two decades, thousands of ACR members have traveled to Capitol Hill on a designated day during ACR annual meetings and chapter leadership conferences to meet with their elected representatives and staff.

Again, this year, ACR members expressed appreciation to their lawmakers for past support of the high-priority legislation. They also expressed concern about issues of general importance to medical practice and sought their elected representatives’ votes and possible co-sponsorships of proposed legislation that addresses topics of significance to the practice of medical imaging and image-guided therapies.

Because the annual meeting was configured as a virtual event, it made sense to also embrace various online platforms to move forward with activities traditionally associated with Capitol Hill Day. The ACR government relations team provided several such opportunities for advocacy engagement in May.

The campaign kicked off May 6 with the release of a legislative Call to Action (CTA) that asked all members to express support for top legislative priorities of the ACR for inclusion in a forthcoming legislative package. The CTA generated 5,642 letters to Congress and served as the foundation for ACR advocacy efforts for the rest of the month. Issues of concern included:

  • Stopping reimbursement cuts associated with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ new Evaluation and Management (E/M) coding policy to be implemented on January 1, 2021.
  • Highlighting how relief from prior authorization would eliminate unnecessary delays to essential diagnostic imaging for patients and providers as the healthcare delivery system adjusts to post-COVID realities.
  • Extending broader liability protections to physicians treating COVID patients, not just unpaid volunteer physicians.

ACR members were then asked to send specific tweets, tagging their federal lawmakers in two successive weeks to raise their awareness of specific ACR legislative priorities. During the week of May 18, ACR members tweeted Congress on issues related to waiving budget neutrality for the proposed E/M policy. They tweeted their senators and representatives again during the week of May 25 to emphasize the need to broaden the scope of prior authorization relief.

In May, ACR members directed 825 tweets to Congress. They generated over nine million impressions.

State radiological societies with senators on the powerful Senate Finance Committee were asked to discuss ACR legislative priorities via virtual meetings or conference calls with their senators and representatives. As of June 5th, seven such meetings had taken place.

ACR leadership also contributed to this month-long effort by participating in virtual meetings and conference calls with Senate and House leaders and their staffs. Advocacy Month meetings were held with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley and Senate Finance Committee Ranking Minority Ron Wyden.

Considering the huge pressures on Congress in May to address the pandemic, ACR leaders appreciated having an opportunity to share the College’s views with this elite group. The lawmakers and staffs appeared well-informed about the issues. The briefings themselves were engaging and ended with commitments to continue to work with the ACR to address its members’ and their patients’ concerns.