To say that the COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on physicians is an understatement. Burnout rates among physicians, which were already high before the pandemic, have increased further as doctors grapple with PPE shortages, an influx of very ill and dying patients, and lost income as patients delay nonessential care and elective procedures.
During this year’s virtual DO Day on Sunday and Monday, more than 750 DOs, medical students and osteopathic advocates came together for health policy education and to advocate for legislation to address these issues.
Advocacy in action
A smaller group of about 400 DO Day participants met virtually with their members of Congress and/or their legislative aides to ask for their support of legislation that would dedicate resources to fighting physician burnout and postpone cuts to Medicare physician payments. To foster more direct interaction in those meetings, the number of attendees participating in Congressional meetings was limited.
DO Day participants in Congressional meetings also asked their lawmakers for increased funding for the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program—and netted an advocacy win, as this funding was included in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which President Joe Biden signed into law last week.
Expanded health policy conference
New this year, DO Day 2021 also included a health policy conference and offered its participants CME. The conference provided roughly 14 professional development talks for students, physicians and affiliate leaders.
Keynote speakers included Steve Pemberton, chief human resources officer of WorkHuman and author of A Chance in the World, and Susan Dentzer, a senior policy fellow with the Robert J. Margolis Center for Health Policy at Duke University.
If you are interested in earning CME and/or seeing the recordings of these talks, registration for DO Day is open through March 19, and all conference content is available to registrants through March 31. You can see the full conference program here (PDF).
If you were not able to attend DO Day but would still like to advocate for the key issues mentioned above or learn more about them, background on each is below. We have also provided links, where applicable, to the AOA’s Osteopathic Advocacy Center, where you can quickly send letters to your representatives.
This year’s DO Day policy asks included:
- Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) funding. The THCGME program was created to increase the number of physicians and dentists trained in community-based settings and currently supports roughly 60 residency programs in 25 states.
Although Congress recently reauthorized the THCGME program at level funding for three years, the program needs additional funding to support financially strapped THCs and allow for the creation of new residency positions in underserved areas.
DO Day participants urged members of Congress to provide additional funding for the THCGME program in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP). Signed into law last week, the ARP includes $330 million to support THCGME, including funding new residency programs and a per-resident increase of $10,000.
- The Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act was developed to address the high rates of burnout among health care professionals and the high suicide rate among doctors.
If enacted, this legislation would authorize grants for mental and behavioral health treatment for health care professionals as well as grants for health care professional education and training on strategies to reduce and prevent burnout, suicide and mental health conditions.
Write to your representatives to advocate for this legislation here.
- The Medicare Sequester COVID Moratorium Act, which would eliminate Medicare sequester cuts during the COVID-19 crisis.
Sequester cuts are the result of the 2011 Budget Control Act, which imposed mandatory budget cuts in an effort to reduce the federal deficit. The law mandates an automatic 2% cut to Medicare physician payment.
Recognizing the impact of COVID-19 on physician practices, Congress passed a short-term freeze on Medicare sequestration cuts in December. However, that freeze is set to expire on March 31.
Contact your representatives to urge them to support this legislation.
Advocacy on social media
DO Day participants also took to social media to advocate for the profession. Below is a sampling of posts.
— Rommaan S. Ahmad, DO (@RAhmadDO) March 8, 2021
— Alexis Cates, DO (@acates) March 8, 2021
In this year’s #DODay21, we’re:
🔥 Addressing doc burnout thru Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act
🔥 Supporting access to care by postponing medicare cuts to doc reimbursement
🔥 Improving healthcare in rural & undeserved areas by supporting funding THCGME progs.
— Mustafa Basree MS | مصطفى بصري (@mustafabasree) March 7, 2021
Steve Pemberton discusses how his personal story has inspired and informed his advocacy, leadership and public service.
— David Broder, DO (@DavidBroderDO) March 8, 2021
— Christina Hornack (@doxtina) March 8, 2021
DO Day 2022
Next year, the AOA’s policy team plans to build on the success of this year’s completely revitalized and redeveloped program and put together a DO Day that includes ample opportunities for advocacy, health policy training and professional development.