January 22, 2024

Working With ACR Advocacy to Shape Healthcare Policy in Real Time

Trilochan Hiremath, MD, MBA

The Rutherford-Lavanty Fellowship in Government Relations provides radiology residents direct exposure to ACR® government relations activities, including state and federal legislative and regulatory processes and the governmental factors that play important roles in shaping the future of radiology.

Applications for this fellowship open late June each year and notifications are sent at the beginning of September. If your state chapter already has a fellowship program in place, please contact your state chapter instead of applying through the ACR.

To learn more, listen to this recent RADVOCACY Podcast hosted by RADPAC® in which Ted Burnes, Senior Director of Political Affairs and RADPAC for the American College of Radiology Association®, talks with Valeria Makeeva, MD, about her experience as a state-sponsored Rutherford-Lavanty Fellow.

I also had the unique opportunity to catch a glimpse of the massive healthcare policy engine shaping our discipline at the local, state and national levels as a Rutherford-Lavanty Fellow in 2018.

Through this fellowship, I gained exposure to crucial ACR advocacy work that strengthens our radiology messages on important legislation and builds relationships with key legislators and medical advocacy groups.

My fast-paced week consisted of lunches, dinners, committee meetings, conferences and fundraising events for several members of Congress. Many of these were small group events co-hosted with other medical advocacy groups, representing a range of specialties that shed light on the importance of coalition efforts in fighting for the needs of all physicians.

In addition to these events, I was excited to meet with legislative correspondents at the offices of Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA), Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D-PA) to discuss some of the challenges facing the healthcare system in Pennsylvania. We also discussed ACR support of the Protecting Access to Lifesaving Screenings (PALS) Act, which would renew the moratorium on the USPSTF mammography screening guideline change to avoid delaying annual mammography screening.

I had the chance to meet members of Congress who were former physicians and express gratitude for their contributions to improving healthcare. Interactions included thanking Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX), a dentist, for his work on the Resident Education Deferred Interest (REDI) Act of 2019, which supported interest-free deferment on student loans for medical and dental trainees.

I also attended a National Republican Congressional Committee roundtable discussion with Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-IN), Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) and Rep. Michael C. Burgess (R-TX) — all of whom are physicians — on the hot-button healthcare issue of surprise billing. I conveyed to the committee the nuances of how radiologists are affected by this legislation.

The highlight of my fellowship week was attending the legislative hearing, No More Surprises: Protecting Patients From Surprise Medical Bills, held by the Health Subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. I heard testimonies by industry experts who represented physicians from organizations including, Fair Coverage, Association of Air Medical Services, The ERISA Industry Committee, American Hospital Association, America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), Families USA and American College of Emergency Physicians.

It was incredible to witness healthcare policy taking shape in real time as legislators asked crucial questions and debated with industry and physician leaders to understand the multifaceted problems associated with medical billing.

Later that week, we crossed paths with Rep. Bucshon at a lunch event where he made a point to recognize and thank the ACR for its support and attendance at the hearing. This really highlighted for me the impact of ACR advocacy work and the importance of contributing our ideas, opinions and needs to the ACR, which ultimately provides legislators a better understanding of the crucial role of radiology in our healthcare system.