BCMA’s Presidential Inauguration Speech
-Charles S. Samorodin, M.D.
I want to welcome everyone including my wife, children, grandchildren and their significant others, as well as Gene Ransom, CEO of MedChi. It is an honor to be standing here now and I feel a debt of gratitude to all prior and current officers of Baltimore County Medical Association, BCMA and MedChi. More specifically, I thank Bernita for her leadership over the past year, our Board and Board Chair, Ted Houk, Gary for spending long hours in Annapolis advocating on our behalf as MedChi’s President, and Loralie, along with Gary, for representing MedChi and the County at the AMA House of Delegates. The unsung hero is of course Russ Kujan, BCMA Director, whose knowledge and expertise in handling medically related problems is awesome.
Also, thanks to everyone who came out to the country to celebrate tonight. As you were driving, I hope you were able to appreciate the natural beauty of northern Baltimore County. We were in luck when planning tonight’s event, since the Eagle’s Nest told us that a complete redecoration of the facility was being planned and we were the first group to have an event in the newly decorated area.
As I thank my colleagues and I look back on my career in Medicine, I’m reminded of my attendance at School 49, which is now part of the MedChi Building. Many of my fellow students became physicians, like me. Not only did we take the Hippocratic Oath, but knew we needed to be involved in our profession, patients and community.
Duty to my country and community was important to me. After my medicine residency, I volunteered for service in Vietnam. When I returned and finished my Dermatology residency, I started my medical practice and became a member of the Baltimore County Medical Association, as did many of my colleagues. I also volunteered at my alma mater, the University of Maryland, and joined the membership of the Maryland Dermatologic Society. I was encouraged by my mentors to join and become involved in organized medicine beyond my private practice.
Younger physicians have not been as quick to join their medical associations. This is partly due to generational changes. Also, the mode of practice has changed rapidly over the last decade. Due to the passage of the Affordable Care Act and the renegotiation of Maryland’s Medicare Waiver, the trend of consolidation and acquisitions among practices, hospitals and health systems and private equity groups has heated up. All of this activity has created a distance between organized medicine and younger physicians and physician practices. Many of these new systems don’t see the value of physician’s involvement in medical societies.
We need to figure out how to get them in MedChi and the BCMA and how to move young people into leadership. MedChi and its components have been having a conversation over the past decade about how to attract and retain young physicians, hospital staff, and consolidated practices.
I would encourage us to consider new membership models on a trial basis. Our mission is to support physicians of all practice modes, especially those struggling to stay in private practice. We should consider models that provide for small and medium-sized groups to be active in the society. This will give them influence that they may not have due to their size. If we fail to do this, health care economists and politicians are going to continually decide how we will all practice.
We cannot afford to sit on the sidelines and allow bills like SB 30, which will allow professional expert witnesses to testify in medical malpractice cases, changing the current 20% rule, which states that a physician can only spend 20% of their professional time testifying as an expert witness and must practice medicine 80% of the time. This change would allow the expert to virtually testify 100% of professional time and at the judge’s discretion, perhaps not even in their own specialty. A change in this law has the potential to increase the occurrence of malpractice lawsuits. Remember the cost of medical malpractice insurance has been fairly stable since the last crisis 14 years ago.
We are concerned about tort law because bills like SB 30 have the potential to create another crisis, or at least make the medical community practice defensive medicine which is very costly. We are ordering tests because our patients ask for them; we are prescribing drugs because our patients demand what they see advertised; this also goes for tests that they read about.
We are working with the HSCRC as the state has transitioned to the new Medicare Waiver. I want to commend Gene Ransom who made sure physicians were represented on the transition committee. I want to thank Drs. Bone and Peruvemba for representing us so well on the HSCRC. They are making sure changes to the Waiver benefit physicians in all practice modes. There is some concern over whether the newly developing Waiver will be put on the chopping block by the current administration. We have been working with Andy Harris and other friends in Congress to keep the Waiver.
We have long lobbied to end the E & M payment disparity between Medicaid and Medicare, which affects patient access not only to primary care services, but also to specialty services. Medicaid payment increases for all physicians will encourage private practice physicians, as well as employed and hospital-based physicians to participate in the Medicaid program. This goal was achieved several years ago. Unfortunately, the O’Malley administration cut Medicaid funding in the budget. Through our lobbying we have increased and stabilized Medicaid payments.
Clearly, tort reform, creation of a new Medicare Waiver that benefits all physicians and Medicare parity are issues we can rally around and concerns all of us. In Maryland, MedChi and its components are the organizations doing the major part of the lift.
What does it take for us to get our colleagues involved? How do we get our colleagues to give $100 to promote tort reform? Every year, the Maryland trial bar tries to change tort reforms, yet physicians are unwilling to even give $100 to their PAC. That is less than we might spend on an evening out. I encourage you to send in a donation to BCMA’s political action committee BacPPAC when you receive the donation letter after the legislative session. You can also make a donation to MedChi’s MMPAC on your membership form. If we all did this, we might turn the tide of this battle.
I was told personally 15 years ago that the trial lawyers association assessed their members up to 2500 dollars when they had the lobbyists try to promote a bill and that was 15 years ago! I wonder what assessments are mandated now?
Each and every one of us here tonight has played an integral part in the success of the BCMA and our success benefits everyone in the medical community. While physicians might disagree, we all want basically the same things. When we don’t agree, we have forums through our medical association to discuss our differences and make difficult decisions. MedChi, the BCMA and physicians of all ages and modes of practice have a unique opportunity to lead the way in this state.
I am confident BCMA is up to the job of leading us into the future!