Lisa Maurer, MD
Immediate Past President
WACEP board members, Drs. Lisa Maurer, Bill Falco and Brad Burmeister [pictured here with U.S. Representative Bryan Steil (R-WI-01)] traveled to Washington DC for the annual Leadership and Advocacy Conference and the ACEP-coordinated visits with Wisconsin’s legislators.
The conference began with outstanding speakers and breakout sessions on leadership and how leadership might intersect with violence prevention, diversity in medicine, civic duties of physicians as community leaders, and practical tips on how to be an effective advocate for your patients and colleagues. Wisconsin emergency medicine will certainly benefit from lessons learned.
As the focus narrowed a bit at the conference to legislative advocacy, Drs Falco, Burmeister and Maurer met personally with staff and legislators from five different offices, including both Senate offices, and informed staff for many other offices from around Wisconsin. Although there are many issues related to emergency medicine that are important to our legislators, our conversations turned to current and pressing issues for them right now: surprise medical bills and improving care for our patients in psychiatric crises.
Related to increasing access to care for our patients with psychiatric disease, we spoke in support for recent bills both on the House and Senate that would supply states with grant funds to use as they see most helpful at the local level to bolster psychiatric care. Discussions around surprise bills were more complicated and detailed, making sure that lawmakers understand that it is important to emergency physicians that our patients are not faced with narrow networks and insurmountable bills as they access crucial emergency care. We were able to explain that for most cases of “surprise bills,” this is actually a description of high out of pocket costs from unrealistically high deductibles.
To that end, our legislators were very interested to hear about our suggested mechanisms for ensuring fair payments for emergency care without escalating costs of care, all the while leaving the patient out of the process. They now understand that while it’s paramount for protecting our patients’ access to care, it’s also very important for protecting emergency physicians as we continue to face challenges in negotiating contracts with insurance companies.
Overall, our team was comforted to see how well informed our legislators and staff are regarding issues that are important to us. The lawmakers actively asked for our follow up with them to make sure they keep our issues in the forefront of their minds. To this end, our board will be asking for help from our members who live and work in the various districts around our state, to make sure these legislators know about how these issues affect you and your patients specifically.