OAFP Journal Article – William T Atkinson

In June I joined other AAFP members at the annual Family Medicine Advocacy Summit in Washington DC. The conference brought together physicians, residents, and students from across the country to advocate for congresses continued support of the family medicine profession. This was my first national advocacy experience, and I can’t imagine a better experience because of the great community and thoughtful programming. As a third-year medical student, I was immediately welcomed by the conference community. The attendees represented the breadth of US state, different training and practice, and political leaning. Everyone was willing to share their unique perspectives on the practice of medicine, residency and practice settings, and favorite local restaurant recommendations. It was insightful speaking to residents and young physicians from our region about the reasons why they chose the field, how they hope to practice in the future, and the unique struggles we face. I really enjoyed more experienced physicians' perspectives on how the practice of medicine has changed over time, but also how some of the barriers to practice have persisted over many decades. I was well prepared to talk to legislators after AAFPs advocacy training. Federal administrators and advocacy professionals talked about reducing administrative burden on physicians, fixing Medicare physician payment, and investing in the primary care workforce. We highlighted several reforms to resolve these issues. We urged lawmakers to endorse CMS’s proposed rule which would standardize the prior authorization process in the Medicare Advantage program. We asked the House to pass the Strengthening Medicare for Patients and Providers Act which would peg physician payment to the Medicare Economic Index so it will keep up with inflation. As an Oklahoman and future family medicine resident I was excited to ask our representatives to permanently reauthorize the Teaching Health Center GME (THCGME) program. This program has benefited our rural communities by bringing in $6 million in FY22-23 to train primary care physicians. Because the program is reauthorized every two years, a permanent reauthorization would relieve program and residents' uncertainty on the program's future. Our message was well received by our lawmakers' aids. If there’s anything I learned during the conference, it’s that policy change takes time and effort. With enough persistence we can improve the lives of physicians and patients. The larger the voice the stronger the message, so I would strongly encourage everyone to get involved in local and national advocacy efforts. There are opportunities for all individuals.

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