Former U.S. Rep. Nancy Johnson (left) and Stuart L. Weinstein, MD.


Published 4/1/2008
Lindsay Law

Want to make a difference? Speak up!

Direct communication is key in influencing the legislative agenda

Change cannot be achieved with only monetary contributions, former U.S. Rep. Nancy Johnson of Connecticut told attendees at the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) Political Action Committee (PAC) luncheon held during the 2008 Annual Meeting.

The first Republican woman appointed to the powerful House Ways and Means Committee and to serve as chair of the subcommittee on health, Rep. Johnson provided an insider’s perspective on the future of healthcare-related issues and the important role of face-to-face grassroots advocacy in the legislative process.

Speaking up makes a difference
Rep. Johnson stressed that orthopaedic surgeons need to serve as knowledge sources and educate members of Congress on the needs of orthopaedic patients.

“My message is very simple, but very important. The health sector of our economy is going to change dramatically in the next decade,” she said.

Rep. Johnson noted that donating to the PAC is just the beginning. Forming good relationships with senators and representatives is key to advancing issues of importance to the field of orthopaedics.

“Members of Congress are profoundly influenced by human relationships and knowledge,” she said. “You have to enable policymakers to understand what is happening to protect the public interest.”

Affordable health care, Medicare physician payments top concerns
Rep. Johnson pointed out that many American citizens are currently unable to afford health care and that employers are struggling to provide comprehensive healthcare packages to their employees.

“We have never before seen both the public and private sector unable to pay for health care. The current healthcare crisis is unlike anything we’ve ever experienced,” she said.

Rep. Johnson described the current Medicare physician payment formula as fundamentally flawed and based on inaccurate economic growth figures. “Each year the physician payment formula has to be rewritten, and every year it gets harder. We are reaching the point of breakdown and the incoming president is going to be faced with making a change,” she remarked.

Rep. Johnson encouraged attendees not to reject the idea of the “medical home” entirely, but rather to advocate that the model needs to include specialists as one of the options for the medical home. The systems and framework for healthcare services will dramatically change in the near future, and orthopaedic surgeons should let their legislators know that ancillary services are an integral part of patient care, she noted.

You can influence change
Rep. Johnson encouraged the attendees, as leaders in the medical profession, to use their specialty knowledge to influence the legislative agenda. She suggested that AAOS members attend their legislators’ town hall meetings and that they form good relationships with their Congressional representatives and their staffs.

Rep. Johnson closed by stressing that AAOS members should never underestimate their ability to ensure that future changes to healthcare policy will provide quality preventive, holistic, technologic, and patient-centered care for all Americans. “There has never been a more important time to get involved,” she said.

Lindsay Law is communications manager in the AAOS Washington office of government relations. She can be reached at