Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Doin' the District

While on Lenten Hiatus from the laptop, I had the pleasure of getting up to DC to do a bit o' lobbying fro the American Psychiatric Association. Being so close to the Capitol, I try to get up there once a year to make the rounds. A few of this year's talking points, and comments:

1. Parity has started to make it into the legislation: Finally! For years, the a person going to a psychiatrist (an M.D. in an office or hospital) would only get reimbursed at 50% rates compared to a non-psychiatrist (an M.D. in an office or hospital, with often little training in psychiatric illness) treating the same patient for the same condition. Invariably, some of those costs are often sent down river to the patient's bill, and also probably have contributed to a severe shortage in mental health access from trained specialists.

2. Privacy. There is a push to move towards more electronic records. While I'm certainly strongly in favor of improving health care and using electronic tools to do so, in psychiatry, this always presents a challenge due to the sensitive nature and type of notes (i.e. therapy notes) that may be out there. (I used to scoff at some of these concerns, and would often spout about 64-bit encryption and whatnot--- that was until the entire Health Practitioner Database for Virginia got hacked recently!)

3. A continuing issue that I brought up with our Virginia legislators is the need to continue to be vigilant in treating the mental health needs of our Veterans. Never is this more important than during times of active deployments. It's not a hard sell in the Commonwealth, given our very large percentage of servicemen and women, but it's always an important topic.

Overall, the staffers looked very tired; the transition, economy, and budget are a serious stress on the congressional building inhabitants. (I felt like offering a free half hour on a couch somewhere for some of them.), D.C is still hectic, and double talk is still the native tongue. All-in-all, though, not a bad day in the beltway.

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