Washington Scene: STS Advocates Push for Residency Cap Increase, Access to Claims Data

Rep. Larry Bucshon, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon,
(third from left) spent time with Fly-In participants.

STS News, Summer 2018 -- Twenty-four STS members made their voices heard at the most recent STS Legislative Fly-In, held June 11-12 in Washington, DC.

After a dinner briefing on Monday evening, attendees spent Tuesday on Capitol Hill meeting with legislators and staff from 55 Congressional offices and urging action on five key priorities—increasing the cap on resident training slots, providing Qualified Clinical Data Registries such as the STS National Database with access to Medicare claims data, advancing research on women and lung cancer, enacting Medicare coverage of oral/dental care, and reauthorizing the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute.

First-time participant Thomas K. Varghese Jr., MD, MS said that while he had some initial hesitation, he ended up having a positive, impactful experience.

Attendees networked at a briefing dinner
the night before their Capitol Hill meetings.

“Despite all the rhetoric and vitriol that we hear on television, the pleasant surprise I found was that there are a lot of very hard-working Americans on both sides of the aisle who share a commitment to enacting meaningful change,” he said. “At the end of the day, we all have the same goal of creating a healthier population and providing the best care for everyone throughout the country.”

Dr. Varghese noted that cardiothoracic surgeons—as stewards of public health—are well-suited to become involved in advocacy efforts.

“We’re on the front lines, so we see all the different factors that impact a patient’s health up close,” he said. “We need to build the relationships—even if we’re engaging with people who have different beliefs than we do—and have thoughtful discussions to find a common ground that can help the public at large.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander (third from left) received
the Society’s Legislator of the Year Award.

Legislator of the Year

During the Fly-In, STS presented Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) with the Legislator of the Year Award, celebrating his firm commitment to issues impacting cardiothoracic surgeons and their patients.

In 2017, Sen. Alexander worked with Democratic leadership to advance policies supported by physicians. As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, he collaborated with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) on a proposed plan to stabilize the Affordable Care Act’s insurance marketplaces. Sen. Alexander also helped spearhead the 21st Century Cures Act, which contained provisions to fund the National Institutes of Health, reduce opioid abuse, and advance medical research and development. It also included an STS-drafted definition about clinical registries.

To see a video of the award presentation, visit the STS YouTube Channel at youtube.com/ThoracicSurgeons. To see more photos from the Fly-In, visit sts.org/fly-in.


Read an exclusive Q&A with Sen. Lamar Alexander.