Updates from the Advocacy Front

The EMRA health policy team has been especially busy over the past few months!  Please check out our updates, and as always, contact me with any further thoughts or questions at educationdir@emra.org.

The EMRA Emergency Medicine Advocacy Handbook, Second Edition
A completely updated version of the Advocacy Handbook has been released!  The 2011 edition provides updates to every chapter, taking into consideration the impact of the Affordable Care Act.  In addition, new content was added on a variety of current issues, including new methods of payment, new delivery organizations (such as Accountable Care Organizations), balanced billing and regionalization.  Earlier this summer, each resident EMRA member received a copy in their mailbox.  We hope you will use your copy as a resource to learn more about the many crucial advocacy issues that we face as a specialty.

ACEP’s Leadership and Advocacy Conference
This May, 130 residents attended the annual ACEP Leadership and Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C.  Many were sponsored by their department chairs and program directors through EMRA’s “Chair’s Challenge.”  At the conference, residents and other “first-timers” attended an EMRA-sponsored series of lectures and activities specifically tailored to young physicians.  A particularly energized group of residents met for a Health Policy Committee meeting, planning projects for the next year.

Many outstanding speakers, including Dr. Steven Stack, FACEP — and now the Chair-Elect of the American Medical Association—delivered updates on the healthcare situation in Washington, D.C.  Joe Heck, MD, FACEP (R-NV) provided an especially exciting insider’s perspective as both a recently elected Congressman and an emergency physician.

ACEP members lobbied their congressional representatives in groups organized by state, holding more than 318 meetings in Capitol Hill offices with legislators from 47 states.  Due to the Republican predominance in the house, our main concern on Capitol Hill was advocating for medical liability reform.

Legislative News – Medical Liability
EMRA and ACEP are currently tracking two major pieces of legislation that would improve the liability climate for emergency physicians.  The first bill is HR 5—the HEALTH (Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare) Act.  This bill would place limits on noneconomic and punitive damages, set a federal three-year statute of limitations, limit attorney’s contingency fees, and consider each party’s liability in direct proportion to responsibility, along with other measures.

The HEALTH Act has 134 co-sponsors in the House as of this writing and is likely to pass the House; however, a companion bill in the Senate is considered much less likely to pass.  ACEP supports this legislation, which would improve the medical liability climate for all providers.  Given that versions of this bill have failed to pass Congress in many prior legislative sessions, another bill has been introduced which would provide special protections for physicians from all specialties who provide care under EMTALA’s unfunded federal mandate.  

HR 157 (the Health Care Safety Net Enhancement Act) was introduced by Pete Sessions (R-TX) and Charlie Dent (R-PA) and currently has six co-sponsors from both parties.  This bill would deem a physician (or physician group of a hospital or emergency department) to be an employee of the Public Health Service for purposes of any civil action that may arise due to providing emergency and post-stabilization services.   Under this legislation, both emergency physicians and specialists seeing patients during emergencies would have increased liability protection due to the unique circumstances of providing care.

In 2008, the EMTALA Technical Advisory Group, a committee of experts committed to improving EMTALA, advised that HHS work to provide liability protection for those providing care under EMTALA.  This law would finally accomplish that goal and could significantly improve access to care for patients by increasing the number of specialists willing to take emergency call.

ACEP’s advocacy efforts at LAC were specifically focused on promoting this piece of legislation, and as a resident member of ACEP, you are encouraged to contact your Congressional Representative to state your support for HR 157.

Advocacy Week
EMRA’s Health Policy Committee is hard at work finding ways to expand advocacy education in residencies nationwide.  While we anticipate that the advocacy handbook will expand interest in these important issues, we have decided to hold a nationwide “Advocacy Week” from October 24-28, 2011.  Further details will be announced in the next issue of EM Resident!  If you’re interested in hosting an advocacy event at your residency, please contact me at legislativeadvisor@emra.org.

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