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It’s All about Relationship Building – Takeaways from PAMED’s Advocacy Day 2017

A lively contingent of Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED) physicians, residents, and medical students converged on the Capitol in Harrisburg on May 23, 2017. They were there to meet with Pennsylvania lawmakers and to address three critical issues:

  • Prior Authorization—The current process lacks transparency, and long wait times jeopardize patient outcomes.
  • Insurer Credentialing of Physicians—PAMED supports a quicker, more streamlined credentialing process.
  • Non-Compete Clauses in Physicians' Contracts—Reform is needed, as these clauses can delay patient care and worsen access-to-care issues, especially in underserved areas.

The experience proved eye-opening for attendees like early-career physician Kandan Kulandaivel, MD, a neurologist in Willow Grove. "We as physicians complain and are frustrated with the day-to-day problems which hinder good quality patient care. Advocacy Day helped me to voice these issues one on one with legislators," he said. "I also realized political lobbying to keep our ground is absolutely essential and the need of the hour."

Advocacy Day began with a conversation between attendees and Pa. Speaker of the House Mike Turzai (R-28th District). Speaker Turzai emphasized the importance of developing relationships with legislators and shared some practical advice, including:

  • Start with a phone call and schedule some time to talk.
  • Identify the issue you wish to address and share personal examples to illustrate your point.
  • Don't assume your legislator knows the issue. Physicians are in a position to be able to educate legislators about health care issues and how they affect patients.

After meeting with Speaker Turzai, the physicians and medical students broke into smaller groups to talk with lawmakers from the House and Senate representing both sides of the political aisle. It was then that the physicians and medical students were able to put into action the lessons they had learned earlier that day. 

Attendees had the opportunity to share their personal stories and anecdotes. For example, Aaron George, DO, a family medicine physician in Chambersburg, made an impression on legislators by sharing his experiences with the insurer credentialing process.

The medical students in attendance came away with a better understanding of the legislative process. "As future physicians, it is our responsibility to not only mend patients, but also to mend the legislation that affects their lives," said Gillian Naro, a medical student at Penn State College of Medicine. "Advocacy Day allowed me to participate in this meaningful work at a young stage in my career, and for that, I am grateful," she said.

Daniel Kim, a Penn State College of Medicine medical student, said, "Many of the policy challenges that are being discussed today will have a lasting impact on my future, and it is my responsibility to learn about this legislative process now and throughout my career. "

Letitia Cosbert, MD, a family medicine resident in York, put Advocacy Day into perspective. "I have always had an interest in advocacy and policy. I strongly believe it is within the role of a physician to represent patients and advocate on their behalf. Also, if we do not get involved and have a presence, we are leaving the fate of our profession the hands of others."

"The connections and advice given were invaluable and I would recommend that more physicians become involved and participate in activities like this, to see who, how, and what is occurring behind the scenes and how to be a part of it," said Dr. Cosbert.

For more details on PAMED's advocacy priorities, visit www.pamedsoc.org/advocacy.



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