Published 8/1/2008
Stuart Burns; Lindsay Law

AAOS Act introduced in Congress

AAOS members encouraged to contact representatives for support

On July 10, 2008, the historic “Access to America’s Orthopaedic Services Act of 2008” (AAOS Act) was introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Hilda L. Solis, D-Calif., and Michael C. Burgess, MD, R-Texas. The bill (HR 6478) seeks to raise awareness of musculoskeletal diseases and conditions among legislators, healthcare professionals, and the public.

“This legislation is indeed a great victory for the orthopaedic profession and our patients,” said David A. Halsey, MD, chair of the Council on Advocacy. “The burden of musculoskeletal diseases and conditions has a much deeper impact on the nation’s healthcare system than many people realize. To fully address this impact and ensure Americans access to orthopaedic services, we must first identify and address gaps in musculoskeletal health services and raise awareness about the importance of educating the public on these debilitating diseases.”

That’s just what the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) has been doing during the past year, as members and staff worked with a bipartisan group in Congress to frame the legislation.

Much-needed legislation
Musculoskeletal diseases and conditions are the leading cause of disability in the United States and account for more than half of all chronic conditions in people older than 50 years of age. More than 1 in 4 Americans require medical attention due to a musculoskeletal condition, and annual direct and indirect costs for bone and joint health total $849 billion annually.

“As our population ages, I believe that we must improve the prevention, treatment, and awareness of musculoskeletal conditions, especially in underserved communities of color,” said Rep. Solis. “Understanding the burden of musculoskeletal disorders through additional research and addressing access to orthopaedic services are the first important steps in addressing musculoskeletal health.”

Issues: Trauma, women’s health, pediatrics, and more
The AAOS Act aims to address issues of importance to the orthopaedic community and its subspecialties. The passage of HR 6478 would enhance the coordination of trauma care and rehabilitation, develop an education program to educate young girls about the importance of good bone health, and improve bone density screenings to tackle the health concerns of aging baby boomers.

Other provisions are aimed at identifying barriers children face in receiving much needed pediatric orthopaedic care, researching the causes of workplace and auto injuries, and improving patient safety through the creation of a national joint replacement registry and a more comprehensive accreditation process for tissue banks.

The Act also addresses a potential workforce shortage among orthopaedic surgeons. “While the demand for health care is growing, unfortunately, the supply of health professionals—including ortho­paedic surgeons—is not,” said Rep. Burgess, a physician who practiced for nearly 25 years in Texas before coming to Congress. “This bill targets that growing gap by in­vesting in our physician workforce today with the goal of training America’s next generation of doctors to deliver care tomorrow.”

A summary of HR 6478 is available at www.aaos.org/dc

A historic step for orthopaedic care
In the past, the AAOS has publicly supported specific provisions of broader legislation that would affect the delivery of orthopaedic care. The AAOS Act of 2008, however, is the first comprehensive bill introduced in the U.S. Congress with a specific focus on musculoskeletal diseases and conditions. This bill will enhance the ability of the orthopaedic community to provide patients with even better health care.

Joining Reps. Solis and Burgess as original cosponsors when the bill was introduced were the following representatives: Robert Andrews, D-N.J.; Joe Baca, D-Calif.; Sam Farr, D-Calif.; Gene Green, D-Texas; Tom Price, R-Ga.; Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz.; Ruben Hinojosa, D-Texas; Randy Kuhl, R-N.Y.; David Scott, D-Ga.; Betty Sutton, D-Ohio; and Gene Taylor, D-Miss.

The AAOS office of government relations is working with attendees of the 2008 National Orthopaedic Leadership Conference to urge other members of Congress to cosponsor this important legislation. The bill will soon be introduced in the U.S. Senate.

“This legislation is an important first step in improving public awareness of musculoskeletal diseases and conditions and improving Americans’ access to the quality orthopaedic services they need and deserve,” said AAOS President Tony Rankin, MD. “I urge all AAOS members to be proactive in supporting this bill by contacting their Congressional representatives and urging them to sign on as cosponsors.”

Increasing the number of cosponsors is integral in moving the AAOS Act forward in the legislative process. You can support the “AAOS Act of 2008” by contacting your Congressional representative and requesting that he or she cosponsor HR 6478. Simply call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask for your representative’s office.

Stuart Burns is senior government relations representative in the AAOS office of government relations and can be reached at burns@aaos.org

Lindsay Law is communications manager in the AAOS office of government relations and can be reached at law@aaos.org