In my role as chairman of the Orthopaedic Political Action Committee (PAC), I have had the opportunity to talk with hundreds of members of the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). I’ve found that members’ responses to the PAC vary widely and occasionally evidence a lack of understanding of the PAC and the way it functions.
Some members question the role of the PAC in the life of an orthopaedic surgeon or the AAOS. Many members view all PACs as “special interest groups” and see them as a less-than-desirable aspect of the American political process.
The fact of the matter is that, in the United States, the cost of federal elections is now astronomical. To win a seat in the House of Representatives, a candidate may have to raise several million dollars. Spending in some Senate contests has exceeded $30,000,000 per candidate! Because few candidates or incumbents are personally wealthy enough to pay for their election campaigns, accepting donations from PACs has become a routine aspect of American political life.
Money talks—in a nonpartisan way
The Orthopaedic PAC gives the AAOS and our members a “voice at the table” on the issues that concern orthopaedic surgeons and their patients. Having a vibrant PAC enables us to help frame the debate on various “hot-button” healthcare issues.
The Orthopaedic PAC is the vehicle that allows the Association to achieve the goals outlined in the Unified Advocacy Agenda. When our goals dovetail with other medical specialty societies, we often combine our resources by working through coalitions—such as the Practice Expense Coalition, the National Institute for Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases Coalition, or Doctors for Medical Liability Reform—to be even more effective advocates for our members and our patients.
In the near future, the Orthopaedic PAC will afford the AAOS the opportunity to introduce a comprehensive musculoskeletal legislative agenda. This effort will be a purely orthopaedic initiative that could only be accomplished with aid of a vibrant PAC.
The Orthopaedic PAC is a pragmatic PAC; we support both Democratic and Republican legislators who support our issues. Some of the legislators may support us on all issues; others may support one or several issues. But the PAC has no allegiance to any single party…it is issue-driven!
Dramatic growth needs to continue
The Orthopaedic PAC has grown dramatically during the past two election cycles (Fig. 1a,b). In the 2003-2004 cycle, the Orthopaedic PAC raised $909,000, based on contributions from only 13.6 percent of AAOS members. In contrast, during the 2005-2006 cycle, the Orthopaedic PAC raised $2,757,388 and had a record 25.7 percent participation rate.
The Orthopaedic PAC now tops all medical specialty society PACs in contributions, but remains far behind other PACs, including the American Association for Justice (trial lawyers) PAC, which raised more than $6 million in 2006.
We must continue to grow the Orthopaedic PAC, and I hope that every AAOS member will see the need to make a PAC contribution every year. As someone who has been advocating on behalf of our members and our patients monthly for the past 5 years, I can attest to the fact that we now have unprecedented access “on the Hill” to present our perspective on issues.
AAOS members who attended the National Orthopaedic Leadership Conference this year noticed the difference that a vibrant PAC can have on access. In previous years, most visits were with legislative aides or congressional staff members. This year, participants had unprecedented access to congressional representatives and senators. In addition, Sen. Orin Hatch spent more than an hour with orthopaedic leaders, discussing major healthcare issues.
The voice of advocacy
The Orthopaedic PAC is our voice of advocacy; we need to have a strong voice to address the issues that affect our practices and our patients’ access to care. This year, the PAC leadership not only hopes to expand our capacity by increasing member participation, but just as important, by helping members become spokespersons in their districts for the orthopaedic community.
Legislators recognize the importance of listening to their local constituents. Orthopaedic surgeons who have, or are willing to build, relationships with their congressional representatives may become powerful voices on behalf of the entire orthopaedic community. If you would like to get involved with the PAC on the local level, please give me a call or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have been a regular contributor to the PAC, I want to thank you for your support and encourage you to increase your yearly contribution. If you have never given to the PAC, I hope that you can begin to see the importance of a regular cycle of giv-ing. I encourage you to visit the PAC Web site, www.aaos.org/pac, to review the materials or make a donation.
Stuart L. Weinstein, MD, is chairman of the Orthopaedic PAC and a past president of the AAOS. He can be reached at email@example.com.
2007 hot button issues
- Medicare payment solution
- Medical liability reform
- Access to specialty care
- Orthopaedic surgeon control of imaging services
- Musculoskeletal research funding