(Washington, DC: March 30th, 2015) While Physicians Shortage, J-1 Visa Waiver Program, Immigration Reform, Delaying the Implementation of ICD-10, and Medical Liability Reform were part of the Legislative Agenda for 2015 for the annual Legislative Day and Reception at the historic Cannon Caucus Building on Capitol Hills organized by the Association of American Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), the passing of the Legislation repealing Medicare SGR on March 26th, 2015 by the US Congress by an overwhelming bipartisan majority on the same day AAPI delegates were gathering was the central theme for the day.
During the annual AAPI’s Legislative Day and Reception, today here scores of AAPI delegates joined the US Congressmen who had come to address them and listen to their concerns, thanked and lauded the bipartisan efforts of the lawmakers for enabling this very important Bill to pass nearly unanimously, even while urging the US Senate to take up the Bill and pass it without delay. “After man years of advocacy and lobbying by AAPI and many other similar organizations, we are extremely delighted and grateful to the US Congress for passing this historic measure on the day when we are on the Capitol seeking to repeal the same,” said Dr. Ravi Jahagirdar, President of AAPI.
“AAPI is once again in the forefront in bringing many burning health care issues facing the community at large and bringing this to the Capitol and to the US Congress,” said Dr. Sudhir Sekhsaria, Chair of AAPI Legislative Affairs Committee. In their efforts to make their voices heard on Capitol Hill, particularly on issues relating to healthcare, more than 100 members of AAPI from around the nation shared of the need to fix the many vital healthcare issues that confront the physicians in the US, even as the nearly two dozen US Lawmakers from both the Parties endorsed AAPI’s agenda and expressed strong support, while promising to do the needful in the US Congress.
Members of AAPI, the largest ethnic organization of physicians, representing over 100,000 physicians, fellows and students of Indian origin in the US, had gathered at the historic Cannon Caucus Room on Capitol Hill on March 26th, 2015 to continue with their efforts to advocate and raise their voices for the larger physician community in the US.
In her keynote address Assistant Secretary of State, Nisha Desai Biswal, the Obama administration’s point person for South Asia, praised the Indian American physicians and the broader Diaspora community for not just being catalytic in fostering the India-United States relationship, but for being the solid anchor that sustains this partnership through good times and bad. “AAPI has been a tremendous organization for what you do here in the United States and for what you do in India and for what you do to improve and extend the US-India relationship,” she said. She acknowledged that, API was one of the first Indian groups to recognize the need for outreach on the Hill. She urged AAPI to continue with the outreach, while crediting the Diaspora for enhanced Indi-US relations, contributing to the advance in global peace and prosperity.
In his address, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Indian Embassy in the United States, Taranjit Singh Sandhu praised the Indian American community, and in particular, the physicians of Indian origin, for their great achievements and contributions to the their motherland, India, their adopted land, the US and in a very significant way to the transformation of the Indo-US relations. He emphasized the key role AAPI’s Global Healthcare Summits have made in transforming the delivery of healthcare system in India. “Our country has the best, the finest, bravest physicians in the whole world,” he said. “If India has changed, the credit goes to you the physicians of Indian origin,” he said. “You have made a change in the perception of India in the US by your hard work, commitment and great achievements. And we are truly grateful to you,” he added.
Rep. Joe Wilson reminded the AAPI members of the fact that first ever Asian to be elected to the US Congress was of Indian origin. “You are only 1% of the US population but are 10% of the total physicians in the country,” he said. Reminding the AAPI members of his recent visit to India, the Congressman said, “I was impressed with the sense of optimism and the growing relationship between India and the US. We want to continue the close relationship and cooperation between the two great democracies.”
Adhering to the near unanimous approval of the repeal of SGR Act by both the Parties in the US Congress, Rep. Steny Hoyer, Chief Democratic Party Whip, said, “Your voices are being heard today,” he said, while pointing to the passing of the SGR Bill. “This is the way to go and how things can be accomplished if both the Parties can work together.”
Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) while addressing the delegates said, “I am so proud of your contributions and for all the innovations you bring to our country.” Among the Fortune 500 companies, she pointed out that 90 are founded by foreign born and 35% of the Nobel laureates in the US are of foreign origin. Rep. Ed Royce said that the goal is to work towards half a trillion dollar trade between the two countries. “It has increased fourfold since in the last few years, but we have a long way to go. We are working on liberalizing trade between India and the US.”
Rep. Ken Buck praised AAPI leadership for its advocacy on several health-related issues. “I want to thank AAPI for how you have contributed to the legislation on GPR. I look forward to working with you in more issues concerning physicians and healthcare delivery system.” Rep. Dina Titus lauded the efforts of AAPI members. “You do an amazing job. Your advocacy is very important. The affordable Care Act is a work in progress and we want to hear from you to make it work better.
Rep. John Delaney praised the “entrepreneurial spirit you bring to the healthcare system. Your community does this to the high standards, with your vibrancy and being a very active community.” Rep. George Holding said that he wants to work towards increasing the number of members to the India Caucus and urged the Indian diaspora to continue to work for enhancing collaboration at the personal, cultural and national level to take to the Indo-US relationship to the next level. He praised the Modi government for understanding the concerns of the business community and it is trying to address them.
Rep. Jim McDermott, MD (D-WA), co-chair of India Caucus in the US House, acknowledged the need to work on other areas of AAPI agenda after having achieved one of its objectives to have the Medicare sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula fixed.
McDermott stated that he was coming to greet the AAPI members soon after he had voted for the repeal of SGR, for which AAPI had advocated for many years. “The next step for all of us is to address numerous issues and have the medical practitioners get involved in the process. I want to urge you to talk to your local Congressmen and continue your advocacy in the interest of the larger health delivery system.”
Rep. Tulasi Gabbard while expressing support for AAPI’s agenda described the wonderful experiences she had while visiting nearly 10 cities in India. Rep. Joe Wilson, said, “I have born with a deep appreciation for the Indian American community in the US, and I join you today to thank you for all of your efforts to have a permanent fix to SGR.”
Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) and Congressman Ami Bera, M.D. (D-CA), in their remarks, referred to the bipartisan Bill they both introduced in the US Congress, Saving Lives, Saving Costs Act. “This legislation would lower healthcare costs and improve patient care by reducing medical malpractice and insurance fraud using evidence-based guidelines developed by doctors,” Barr said. Dr. Ami Bera, the lone Indian American physician in the US Congress, shared his own personal experience of growing up to be a physician and how he got elected in a district that has only 1% of Indian Americans. “My story is your story and our story is that of the entire nation’s,” he said. “I want my legacy to be how the generation is going to take us all to the next level and have many more Indian Americans get elected to the Congress,” he added. Bera praised AAPI for its agenda for future working towards having as many as 20 Indian American Congressmen in the next two decades.
Rep. Frank Pallone described the vote on SGR as “truly amazing” with nearly 400 Congressmen voting for the repeal of SGR. Pallone along with the other Congressmen promised to work in a bi-partisan way, reforming the immigration system, J-1 Visa, Increasing Residency Slots and the liability reforms. Dr. Janak Joshi from Colorado gave his perspective on his state’s legalization on the legalization of marijuana.
Underscoring the tremendous contributions of the 100,000 strong Indian American physician community in delivering the healthcare in the US, dozens of US Congressmen and Senators praised them for their hard work, commitment to patients and their constant efforts to make health care affordable, accessible and efficient for everyone in this country.
While honoring AAPI with a seat at the American Medical Association (AMA) House of Delegates, Dr. Steve Sack, President-Elect of AMA, said, “Yours is the only ethnic organization that has the distinction of having a seat at the AMA House of Delegates.”
Some of the speakers on Legislative Day included Rep. Jo Heck, Rep. Mark Tocar, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Parag Mehta, Rep. Ed Royce, Chirag K. Shah, Rep. Joe Wilson, Dr. Janak Joshi, Rep. Ken Buck, Dr. S. Shivangi, Rep. Jim McDermott, Rep. Andy Barr, Rep. Doug Lamor, Rep. Ami Bera, Rep. Frank Pallone, Rep. Barbara Comstock, Rep. George Holding, Rep. John Mica, Dr. Steve Sack, Rep. Steny Hoyer, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Rep. Chris Van Hollen and Rep. Amata Radewagen.
“We have many more urgent issues pending and we need to work on them and as Congressman Bera stated, our goal is to work to have several more Indian Americans elected to be lawmakers across the nation,” Dr. Sampat Shivangi, co-chair of AAPI’s Legislative Committee, said.
“AAPI has been able to draw the attention of the Congressmen on several important issues that confront the physicians across the nation,” said Dr. Rachakonda Prabhu, Co-Chair of AAPI Legislative Committee. According to Dr. Suresh C. Gupta, a Co-Chair of AAPI’s Legislative Committee, “The Legislative Day has had detailed discussions on topics of importance to AAPI members and how they can be part of the process in the implementation of the health care delivery in this country.”
Dr. Rajeev Khanna, Co-Chair of AAPI’s Legislative Committee, said, “API physicians were able to communicate to the law makers the burden that CMS has imposed with the Meaningful Use and PQR reporting and the constant and dire threats of reimbursement cuts and penalties.” Dr. Harbhajan Ajrawat and Dr. Vinod K. Shah were among those who had played an advisory role in organizing the event. Several AAPI delegates came on stage to introduce the lawmakers from his/her own state, sharing with the audience their close relationship with the lawmakers.
Ravi Jahagirdar, President of AAPI, while summarizing the deliberations during the daylong event on Capitol Hill, said, “AAPI has once again succeeded in bringing to the forefront the many important health care issues facing the physician community and raising our voice unitedly before the US Congress members. And we were able to discover our own potential to be a player in shaping the health of each patient with a focus on health maintenance than disease intervention and to be a player in crafting the delivery of health care in the most efficient manner as well as to strive for equality in health globally.”
For more information on AAPI’s the Legislative Day, please visit: http://www.aapiusa.org/