On behalf of allergists, the Advocacy Council of ACAAI (formerly JCAAI) has recently identified three issues we thought were important enough to comment on and call to the attention of Congress or the Administration. All of our letters were sent jointly with the ACAAI to various members of Congress.
First, the Advocacy Council had an opportunity to respond to a series of questions related to graduate medical education – posed to us by the Honorable Joseph Pitts (R-PA), chairman of the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The Health Subcommittee is reviewing funding issues involving resident and fellowship training. The Advocacy Council’s concerns focused on the need for sufficient funding to guarantee an appropriate number of primary care and specialty care physicians to meet the needs of the American public. We stated that in 2013 there were 528 U.S. medical school graduates who failed to get a residency slot and that number increased substantially for 2014. We also noted that there were not enough residency slots to allow all graduates of U.S. medical schools to enter into postgraduate residency training programs. We discussed, in detail, the looming shortage of allergy and immunology physicians and the potential impact to the American public because of the shortage.
The second issue dealt with funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which was set to expire on Sept. 30, 2015. CHIP is a federal program that provides matching funds to states who offer health coverage to children of low income families who do not qualify for Medicaid or other types of affordable insurance. Currently, there are 8 million children enrolled in this program. We highlighted the need for regular physician visits for the proper management of allergic diseases – especially asthma. We reinforced the critical need for the CHIP program and recommended continued funding so the children covered by the CHIP program could continue to receive adequate care. On April 14, funding for CHIP was extended for two more years.
Finally, the Advocacy Council signed-on to an AMA-generated letter to the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) regarding the electronic health record (EHR) meaningful use (MU) program. We suggested that the current focus on certifying EHR’s primarily to meet MU criteria has played a large role in the poor usage of these products by physicians. We noted that the main issue remains getting physicians to use the EHR versus getting physicians to meet MU requirements. Current EHR certification programs do little to ensure physicians are purchasing products that meet their needs; EHR vendors seem to be building systems that first meet the requirements of MU certification and then meet the needs of the physician. This concept must be turned around or EHR’s will not be used.