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Dr. Michael Sossenheimer Participates in ACG Advocacy Day to Champion Health-related Bills and Policies

Dr. Michael Sossenheimer Participates in ACG Advocacy Day to Champion Health-related Bills and Policies

On Thursday, April 15, 2021, Dr. Michael Sossenheimer, an Associate Professor in the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition, participated in the American College of Gastroenterology’s (ACG) annual Advocacy Day. As the recently elected Governor of Utah’s ACG chapter, Dr. Sossenheimer, along with other ACG representatives, advocated for important health policies impacting patients and practices from across the United States.

Dr. Sossenheimer had the opportunity to virtually meet with the office staff of Senators Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, as well as Representative Burgess Owens and his team, to advocate for three important policies/bills, summarized below:

The Safe Step Act (S.464; HR 2163)

“Step Therapy” are insurance policies which require a certain drug to be used first without success before other drugs can be prescribed without consideration of the treatment rationale. However, evidence shows that impeding the doctor-patient relationship and delaying access to essential treatments can increase costs for all stakeholders, especially for patients. This bill would amend the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 to require a group health plan or health insurance coverage offered in connection with such a plan to provide an exceptions process for any medication step therapy protocol, and for other purposes.

Telehealth Bills (S.368; HR 366)

Telehealth has become an integral part of GI patient care throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent surveys of ACG members confirm that telehealth services will continue to play an important role in treating patients and increasing access to care after the pandemic. This bill modifies requirements relating to coverage of telehealth services under Medicare.

Policies to Reduce Disparities in Colorectal Cancer Screening

Though Congress passed the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act in 2020, there is still much work that they can do to reduce disparities in colorectal cancer screenings. Black Americans have among the highest rates of colorectal cancer and are 40% more likely to die from this disease than any racial/ethnic group in the United States. One study estimates that 19% of the racial disparity in mortality can be attributed to lower screening rates. The next logical step for Congress would be to increase screening rates in underserved areas by removing patient cost-sharing for diagnostic colonoscopies subsequent to the positive finding of another recommended colorectal cancer screening test (FIT, Colorguard, etc.).

Since the conclusion of this year’s ACG Advocacy Day, Dr. Sosseheimer has had time to reflect on his experience, and encourages others to volunteer their time in advocacy efforts.

“We have to remember that there is power in politics,” he says. “It’s only if we as physicians can convince these legislators about the importance of telehealth and treatment access that we can improve care for our patients. I encourage any physician or APC in the Department of Internal Medicine to seek out opportunities to advocate for your patients – become a member of your specialty’s society, or start calling your local politicians and making your voice heard.”