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Looking back on a successful week in DC

I’ve just returned from a fantastic week in Washington, D.C., participating in federal advocacy for the Society and my profession. In just one trip, I attended two national meetings/conferences, stayed in three hotels, worked with four Society colleagues, had five visits with my congressman—U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, (D-La Crosse), visited with six other members of the Wisconsin Congressional delegation and walked about seven miles a day.

In a previous blog, I talked about Doctor Day and advocacy work at our state Capitol. This effort was different, both in location and in the major issues discussed. Although advocacy in D.C. shares some similarities with advocacy at the state level, the issues are quite distinct.

The first meeting I attended was the AMA’s National Advocacy Conference (NAC). With Society President Jerry Halverson, MD, Board Chair Molli Rolli, MD, CEO Rick Abrams, and Director of State and Federal Relations Chris Rasch, we discussed federal issues from the very obscure—including geographic practice cost indexes (sometimes referred to as GPCI laws)—to more day-to-day concerns, including telemedicine and meaningful use. We had very successful visits in the offices of Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Oshkosh) and Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Madison), as well as Congressman Kind and Reps. Sean Duffy (R-Weston), Glenn Grothman (R-Campbellsport), Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee), Mark Pocan (D-Vermont), Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Menomonee Falls) and Reid Ribble (R-Sherwood).

I was impressed by how well respected Society members are in D.C. and what great relationships we have. The conference itself was very informative, with talks from a number of national experts on policy, including acting director Andy Slavitt from CMS, as well as luminaries such as Chuck Todd and Joe Scarborough. But perhaps a highlight of NAC was the opportunity to visit with Rep. Paul Ryan in the Speaker’s offices in the Capitol! All in all, the entire meeting was very successful.

The second meeting on the Hill was for the American Academy of Neurology, where over 200 neurologists came to Washington, D.C. to advocate for neurologic issues. Although the issues were slightly different, there was clear synergy on the topic of meaningful use. I think having back-to-back meetings was helpful and reinforced to our legislators the importance of the burdens of meaningful use, and I believe that with the moderating tone from acting CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt, the clear message from both AMA and the American Academy of Neurology, our Wisconsin legislators are hearing the message.

I take real comfort in knowing that we have a dedicated team working for Wisconsin physicians—both here in the state and in D.C. Rick and Chris have done an excellent job in establishing relationships, and it is evident that these relationships are very helpful given our legislators’ clear support on many of the important issues we face.

But this effort isn’t just up to Chris and Rick and our Society leadership. All physicians can play a role—particularly in an election year when our legislators are back in the district. It’s a great time for physicians to reach out to our legislators and let them know we appreciate their attention to matters important to medicine.

It is good to be back in the state, looking forward to catching up in the office, both in Eau Claire and Madison. Again, if there are any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to me. I’ll be happy to review any of these topics in further detail. Wishing you all the best as the seasons change from winter to spring, and looking forward to connecting again soon. Thank you.

Doctor Dexter, MD, a board-certified neurologist and sleep medicine specialist, is the Wisconsin Medical Society’s chief medical officer. He also serves as vice chief medical officer, Northwest Wisconsin Region, for Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, is an assistant professor of neurology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and he continues to practice part-time. He received his medical degree from Mayo Medical School in Rochester, Minn., and he completed his residency and fellowship at the Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education.

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