Kent “Kwas” Huston, MD, remembers the conversations he had with his father’s rheumatology patients in Kansas City, Mo., when he visited his father’s practice while he was growing up. “They shared what a difference he made for them,” Dr. Huston explains.
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Dr. Huston also saw firsthand the importance of rheumatology care. His mother was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis when he was a child. These unique experiences inspired Dr. Huston to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a rheumatologist.
Planting a Seed
After studying at Yale University, New Haven, Conn., to earn his doctorate in medicine and completing his residency in rheumatology at Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif., Dr. Huston completed a fellowship and first year of rheumatology practice at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He then returned home to Kansas City to practice with his father.
In private practice, Dr. Huston discovered a new world of challenges with insurance and reimbursement when, in 2010, his practice received the first notice from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) on value-based performance measures that would impact reimbursement.
“The measures we were going to have to meet were really outside the practice of rheumatology. I thought perhaps this notice was a mistake, so I contacted CMS, and they responded with an invitation to meet,” Dr. Huston shares. “In this meeting, I was able to see the need for a clearer understanding about the practice of rheumatology.”
This meeting planted the seed for Dr. Huston’s ongoing focus on advocacy in the policy arena.
Sharing the Rheumatology Perspective
This need to advocate for the rheumatology perspective in policy decisions led Dr. Huston to join payment reform and rheumatology practice committees with the ACR before taking his current position on the ACR’s Government Affairs Committee (GAC).
The GAC, which combines staff policy and advocacy experts and member practice experts, acts quickly to respond to policy proposals that could have an impact on rheumatology care. This work has been very effective, Dr. Huston says.
He is proud to be an active member of a committee that has contributed to big wins for rheumatologists in recent months. For example, the ACR’s work in Washington, D.C., and as a leading member of active coalitions has led to changes in proposed decisions, such as:
- Medicare’s Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) payment adjustments not applying to Part B drug costs.
- Permanent repeal of Medicare’s annual hard cap on rehabilitation therapy services, such as physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy for rheumatology patients.
Dr. Huston is also co-chairing the ACR’s working group that is creating an alternative payment model (APM) with unique billing codes for patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). This rheumatology-specific APM is one of many ways Dr. Huston is working with the ACR in supporting rheumatology practice so physicians can focus their work on patient care.