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.
You Might Also Like
- Advocating Where It Counts: A Conversation with Incoming Government Affairs Committee Chair Angus Worthing, MD, FACR, FACP
- Sharing Knowledge to Support Care: A Conversation with ACR Communications & Marketing Committee Member Suleman Bhana, MD, FACR
- Connect Rheumatology: A Conversation with Paul Sufka, MD, ACR Committee on Marketing & Communications Member
Also By This Author
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.
This is a challenge he sees in his own practice setting, in which two full-time staff members are needed for every one physician to keep up with insurance and reimbursement requirements. “I think the saying ‘if you aren’t sitting at the table, you’re on the menu’ holds very true for rheumatologists facing policy changes today,” Dr. Huston stresses.
Staying Ahead of Practice Changes
The value of being aware of policy changes and rules has been extremely helpful for Dr. Huston’s practice, and his practice colleagues are grateful for the time he gives to the ACR via the GAC. For example, with the introduction of MIPS requirements as part of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) of 2015, the information Dr. Huston was able to share with his colleagues helped them make preparations to meet MIPS requirements.
To his fellow ACR members, he emphasizes the value of getting involved and keeping up with policy changes that affect patient access to care, acknowledging how difficult it can be to follow the rapid evolution of policy changes in healthcare.
“We know how important access to treatment is to our patients; for many, these treatments are life changing,” Dr. Huston says. “It is up to us to make sure those making decisions are well informed about how their decisions impact our ability to provide medical care.”
When he is not pursuing his passion for policy and patient care in his daily practice, Dr. Huston spends his time with his wife, three children, extended family and two dogs in his hometown. He also finds perspective exploring the night sky as an astro-photographer.
Want to Know More?
Read more about the ACR’s policy wins that Dr. Huston has been a part of, and learn about recent proposed policy changes Dr. Huston and members of the GAC encourage ACR/ARHP members to be informed about. You can also apply to be involved in the GAC or other ACR/ARHP committees through the nomination process that ends on June 1.
Carina Stanton is a science journalist in Denver.