College of
Human
Medicine

MSU Medical Students Attend AMA Medical Student Lobby Day

February 22, 2012

By Bradley R. Burmeister

Eight College of Human Medicine students traveled to Washington, DC, February 12 - 13 to participate in AMA Medical Student Lobby Day 2012, where they advanced their understanding of health policy, learned how to effectively lobby Congress, and headed to Capitol Hill to speak about the issues.

The most exciting experience came Monday, when all eight MSU students had the opportunity to meet with staff from their home Senators’ and Representatives' offices. Michigan residents met with health policy staff for Representative Justin Amash, Senator Carl Levin, and MSU alum, Senator Debbie Stabenow.

The first and most timely issue students spoke about is repeal of the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR). 

In short, the SGR is the part of Medicare that attempts to ensure sustainability by setting physician reimbursement rates at levels that keep growth of spending per medicare beneficiary less than the growth of GDP. 

Health care costs have grown at rates that far exceed the growth of inflation, and physicians now face the constant threat of increasingly delayed and growing reimbursement cuts.

If a fix is not passed by March 1, 2012, physicians would face this reimbursement cut that now reaches 27.4%, which would force most doctors to discontinue seeing Medicare patients.

Since this is not a realistic option, Congress has consistently passed short-term fixes in the past, costing billions of dollars. To remedy this ongoing problem, the AMA and a majority of both parties agree that repeal of the SGR is necessary. To repeal, however, congress must fund the “back-pay” from the previous fixes, which currently exceeds $300 billion. The AMA strongly believes that OCO funds -- money that was earmarked for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and will not be spent due troop draw-downs -- should be used to fix the SGR now.

Another issue students find important is Graduate Medical Education (GME) funding that is largely federally funded through Medicare. The United States currently faces an estimated 7.9% physician shortage and Michigan currently faces and even larger 11.9% shortage. As current medical schools expand and new medical schools are established, Michigan and the US graduates more physicians without increases in residency positions. One potential fix is a bill that has been introduced multiple times in the Senate that would add 15,000 additional residency positions. The Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act (S. 1627) has been cosponsored by Senator Debbie Stabenow in the past, so the CHM AMA representatives sought a repeated effort with co-sponsorship and urged Senator Levin to consider doing the same. 

The third and final issue medical students spoke about involved medical student debt. Now that average medical student debt reaches well over $150,000 nationally and Stafford loan subsidies end July 1, the CHM students asked that their congress-persons to consider alternative solutions to medical student debt relief. Debt burden decreases student propensity to seek careers in primary care fields, where physician shortages are felt the most strongly. Finding solutions to the debt problem is a very real and significant problem. 

The students report having a very valuable experience in Washington and are excited to continue following these policy issues and cultivating relationships with their congress-persons. 

Questions about the AMA-MSS at MSU College of Human Medicine can be directed to Michael Johnson @ john2506@msu.com.

 

MSU College of Human Medicine Students at the Capitol for AMA Medical Student Lobby Day

MSU College of Human Medicine students at the Capitol
for AMA Medical Student Lobby Day. 
L-R Front:
Nicolas Fletcher, Erik Anderson;
Center: Michael Johnsin, Andy Sochacki,
Brian Holowecky; Back: Brad Burmeister,
Matt Veltkamp, Kelly Krcmarik.
Courtesy Photo