Smith goes to Washington
OU-HCOM students and
clinical faculty advocate for health care reform in Congress
By Mary Reed
When Starla Lyles, OMS I, put on
her white coat and made rounds April 24, she wasn’t in a
hospital or clinic, but on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
Lyles joined more than 40 OU-HCOM students and clinical
faculty—and more than 800 others from across the U.S.—at D.O.
Day on the Hill. This national lobbying event, coordinated
by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), brings
together D.O.s and osteopathic medical students to advocate
for health care policy reform.
“We had an opportunity to actually talk
to our representatives and senators … they listened; they
had an open ear,” said Lyles, political affairs chair for
the OU-HCOM chapter of the Student Osteopathic Medical
In D.C., the students met with Sen.
Sherrod Brown and with an aide to Rep. Charlie Wilson, both
Ohio democrats. Among other topics, D.O. Day participants
pressed representatives to sign a letter supporting the Save
Medicare Act of 2008, which would halt the 10.6 percent cut
in physician reimbursements slated to go into effect July 1,
followed by another five percent cut in January 2009.
According to Peter Bell, D.O.,
the issue is not how much doctors are paid, but for what.
“Medicare rewards doing things without compensating
preventive care efforts or rewarding greater quality of
care,” said Bell, a CORE assistant dean at both Doctors
Hospital and Grandview Medical Center.
Bell explained that
Medicare, America’s largest health care purchaser, pays
hospitals and doctors a fixed sum to perform a specific
procedure or treat a condition. Failing to provide
preventive care or adequate early treatment can increase the
need for such Medicare-reimbursed services later on. As a
result, low quality of care is actually rewarded.
“In our country, we have a patchwork of
health care solutions. What we need is a well-woven
blanket,” Bell said. “As physicians, we need to understand
the weaknesses of the system and offer realistic,
Lyles coordinated her and her
classmates’ D.C. trip this year, with transportation and
accommodations funded by the Ohio Osteopathic Association (OOA).
“The OOA believes it is very important
for D.O.s to serve as health policy advocates for their
patients and their communities,” said Jon Wills, OOA
executive director. “We want students to actively
participate in the legislative process, so they will
continue to speak out on important issues when they become
This year’s D.O. Day on the Hill drew
852 osteopathic physicians and students to the nation’s
capital. “The event helps students understand how Congress
impacts the practice of medicine,” said Leann Fox, AOA
director of federal advocacy. “Students are growing more
aware that grassroots advocacy is key to ensuring that the
rules and regulations governing medicine are made with their
input and with the understanding that the physician-patient
relationship must be protected.”
Imran Akbar, OMS II, helped
prepare his fellow students for the big day by coordinating
the college’s 2008 Policy Puzzle—a series of lunchtime
seminars that cover topics such as health care costs, access
to health care, physician reimbursements and the State
Children’s Health Care Program (SCHIP), which was the focus
of last year’s D.O. Day on the Hill.
Akbar attended the event last year and
wanted to encourage more students to get involved for 2008.
“My goal (for Policy Puzzle) was to get more students
excited about the democratic process and more aware of
important health care issues,” he said. “Until you’ve done (D.O.
Day), you don’t realize how accessible our government is.
When you leave, you have a newfound respect for the process,
and it beckons you to engage.”