VMS Advocacy in Action 

Perspective Authored by VMS President Cathy Schneider
This has been the month of advocacy for healthcare! Last week, VMS held its annual VMS Advocacy Day in Montpelier. Despite a snowy day, physicians and residents came to learn how to hone their skills in advocating for healthcare issues to improve our practice and care for our patients.  We learned how to expand the “elevator speech” to provide focused testimony that starts with our values. We had a great number of VMS members in attendance, including several pediatric residents. It was very encouraging to see so many residents engaging at this early stage in their careers.  At lunch, we had a Town Hall discussion with our members and several Vermont legislators concerned with health care issues this session. Our panel included Speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson, D-Grand Isle, Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe, D/P - Chittenden, Simha Ravven, M.D. and Becca Bell, M,D.  Attendees had the opportunity to ask questions of both physicians and lawmakers regarding the policies that keep Vermonter's healthy. After lunch, many attendees went to the Statehouse to provide testimony on a variety of legislative committees on: universal after school prevention programming, health care workforce, fair contracting, pharmacy prescribing and scope of practice legislation. Thank you to all of our VMS members and residents who participated in VMS Advocacy Day 2020!

Two weeks ago, Jessa Barnard and I went to Washington, DC for a national advocacy conference held by the American Medical Association (AMA). It was an energetic conference with valuable discussions on what matters most nationwide for physicians and our patients. Physicians from across the country were in DC to speak to their senators and representatives about surprise billing, MACRA/MIPS and Medicare reimbursement, the burden of prior authorization, as well as research into the benefits and risks of marijuana use. I was happy to see that the AMA is supporting efforts to address many of the concerns that we have in Vermont. On the second day, there was a presentation by CNN’s John King on the politics of the upcoming presidential election, which was followed by Seema Verma, the director of CMS, who spoke about the CMS priority, Patients Over Paperwork. After a day of conference, Jessa and I went to Capitol Hill to meet with Rep. Peter Welch and aides for Sen. Sanders and Sen. Leahy to talk about VMS healthcare concerns. That evening, there was a service awards dinner where Senator Raul Ruiz, M.D. from California gave a very moving, heartfelt acceptance speech on the need for and benefit of advocacy.  Dr. Barrasso from Wyoming emphasized that “advocacy should be part of our practice, not in addition to it." 

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