20 April 2009

My Big DC Trip

I'm in DC at the ACEP Leadership & Advocacy conference.   Basically health wonk/politics junkie heaven.   I'm intermittently twittering the speakers (when I have a wireless signal, which is damnably infrequent).  You can follow my twitter feed here, for what it's worth.

The ACEP staff, god love 'em, are trying to get "with it" and maybe even "go viral."  So you can follow their twitter feed here, and a proto-blog called The Central Line -- good name, let's hope they get more content up.  Maybe I can trick them into giving me access!

The biggest frustration about the DC meetings is that they always schedule luminaries to come speak, and the officials often do not show.  I know, they're busy people doing real work and I don't resent the fact that we are low on their priority list.  But we were supposed to hear Pete Stark talk about the prospects on reform from the Congressional perspective -- now like him or hate him, Stark is a real player, and health care has been his deal for a long time.   So I was pretty bummed that he cancelled.   The replacement speaker, Roy Ramthun, gave a good "inside baseball" outline on the prospects for reform, but without the star power. 

Then our lunch speaker, Office of Health Reform Director Deparle also was unable to attend, sending one of her deputies instead.  The messaging could have been better, unfortunately, as she almost immedately alienated a friendly audience with a "things are pretty good - over 80% of your patients are insured" lede, and followed that with the "if only we could get all those non-urgent patients out of your ER, things would be great," myth.  To an audience steeped in the boarding and crowding crisis and very invested in addressing the uninsured/EMTALA problems, this was not a recipe for building goodwill.  She talked a lot about expanding access to care, especially primary care -- fair and good -- but when asked about the specific issues addressing acute care medicine, there was a lot of tap-dancing and punting.

I agree that primary care is an urgent problem, but there are also huge problems in the emergency care safety net, and it was disappointing that the OHCR staffer couldn't be bothered to brief herself on them before coming to a conference of ER docs.

The best talk so far was a joint presentation by odd couple Ron Pollack of Familes USA, a health reform advocacy organization and Bruce Josten of the pro-business Chamber of Commerce, both of whom have been involved in Kennedy's so-called Workhorse group.   There was a lot of stuff about the mechanics of organizing and mobilizing your activist base.  Interestingly, the Chamber's methodology is a very top-down structure which nobody can deny is an effective model, but he kept calling it a "grassroots" model, motivating my neighbor to lean over to me and quip, "He keeps using that word. I do not think it means what he thinks it means."  It was also interesting to hear the areas of agreement these two very disparate groups have found on the need for and specifics of health care reform.  

Well, I'm off to an afternoon session now -- more when I get a chance...

2 comments:

  1. You may also follow ACEP at twitter.com/emergencydocs.

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  2. I'm really pleased that you are involved and engaged. Good work Shadowfax.

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