Winter 2019 Issue
By Bradley Butkovich, MD
As the leaves begin to change and some warm days remain, at least in Virginia Beach, a greeting to all of our Virginia Orthopaedic Society members.
As we head into winter, we look toward the holidays as a time to switch gears once again and enjoy what the colder months have to offer including time with family, basketball, winter excursions and perhaps some time by a fire. Outside of that, we look to the State Legislature session where things continue to churn in Richmond. There are issues that are likely to affect all of our practices most directly. Now that the Democrats control all chambers of government, our mission will be much more difficult but not impossible. Certificate of Public Need reform (COPN) is still at the forefront of our agenda and there are a few different angles that may get this issue pushed forward. One of the key stumbling blocks up until this point, was the fact that some legislators said COPN reform could never move forward until Medicaid expansion occurred. That has obviously passed and opens the door to compromise, in both chambers and the Governor’s office.
Another pressing issue that continues to fester is “Surprise Balance Billing,” in the setting of out-of-network medical care. This has been pushed to the forefront by a few bad actors and has gained significant traction in political circles as insurance companies are using this as a tool to prevent doctors from being able to negotiate fair contracts with hospitals and emergency rooms. This has implications in reimbursement, call coverage and our ability to operate in a free market. As we highlighted last year, a critical early step may be to educate legislators and other stakeholders regarding the implications of some of the potential solutions being suggested. Even for those of us whose practices are primarily within insurance networks, the legislative solutions proposed have the potential to have significant downstream implications with regards to future insurance contract negotiations. I am personally reaching out to any and all of our members to be a political force for the good of our profession. You can as always contact me or any of our officers through the society or contact our lobbyist Cal Whitehead.
Beyond these legislative issues, let us not forget the never ending array of regulatory hoops to jump through, and ongoing administrative headaches thrown our way from insurers, hospital administrators and various other regulatory bodies.
Regardless of where we came from, what we are doing and how we practice as orthopaedic surgeons, it is my hope that we all continue to understand and unite as a whole to stand up and fight for what we believe in as doctors. I want all of us to be an advocate for our patients and for the medical professionals and support staff that help us day in and day out. I would hope that we all can continue to unite on a common front for what we believe. This is no more critical than in the upcoming elections, and through advocacy in the legislature in 2020. There are many challenges and many challengers looking to affect the way in which we are able to provide care for our patients.
As we have discussed in the past, so many entities and interests are not at all reluctant to paint us and our work as doctors as enemies of our patients and our profession as insignificant. This is why more than ever we, as an orthopaedic community, need to bind together in spite of our differences. There are many ways for us to come together, whether it is through advocacy, volunteerism, political outreach or something as simple as attending the VOS annual meeting, we can have a common unified voice against those that aim to make less of our profession as orthopaedic surgeons.
On an academic note, our Annual Meeting planning and program is nearly complete. I will leave it to our Program Chairs, Sam Robinson, MD and Blake Moore, MD, to elaborate. They are really lining up an interesting slate that will be a worthwhile experience for all who will join us for the weekend in Virginia Beach on May 15-17, 2020.
In closing, as always, I wish to thank you for your ongoing society membership. Please encourage all your partners and colleagues to join. If you have never engaged in the society in person, I promise you would easily get more than your money’s worth from the work that our advocacy team does in Richmond on your behalf. I believe in the camaraderie that binds our fraternity within orthopaedics to be one of the most solid within all of medicine. We can put this to work with the understanding that the more you engage with our society, the more you realize that our orthopaedic community has much more in common than not and supports a singular goal of elevating our profession in the Commonwealth of Virginia.