Despite these troubled economic times, access to affordable health care and the need for comprehensive healthcare reform remain high priorities among American voters. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation health tracking poll conducted in September 2008, independent voters ranked health care as the second most important issue weighing on their minds. More specifically, of all registered voters, 50 percent specified “affordability” as the key healthcare issue they would like to see discussed more often.


Published 11/1/2008
David A. Halsey, MD

Searching for a common ground

David A. Halsey, MD

On Sept. 17–18, 2008, representatives from the medical, insurance, and government sectors gathered in Orlando, Fla., to discuss ways to reform the current healthcare system as part of the “America’s Health Care at Risk: Finding a Cure” conference. The program was cosponsored by the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), the Alliance of Specialty Medicine, Doctors for Medical Liability Reform, and several other organizations.

Among the speakers were such notables as James Carville and Karl Rove, Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida, and Sens. Tom Coburn, MD, of Oklahoma; Mel Martinez and Bill Nelson of Florida; and Ron Wyden of Oregon. Rep. Michael Burgess, MD, of Texas, and former Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson also appeared on the program. (Read more about the conference.)

The America’s Health Care at Risk conference served as a positive first step toward meaningful collaboration among physicians, other stakeholders, and government officials. I strongly believe those present walked away feeling energized and equipped with the knowledge necessary to go back to their colleagues and work toward initiating vibrant discussion on these very important healthcare issues.

Advancing policy with participation
Probably the most significant message I took away was the realization that until the President and Congress find common ground, the chances of any real policy progress in the area of healthcare reform are slim.

The debate over health care will continue, regardless of who is president of the United States. As physicians, we have a stake in the outcome of that debate and we must have a voice in Congress to represent our concerns. Leadership and contributions by the medical community are vital to maintaining the integrity of our profession and to providing the quality health care our patients need and deserve.

To ensure we have a seat at the table in all healthcare negotiations, the orthopaedic community must bring forward workable solutions that also have broad support from various houses of medicine, including primary and specialty care. Although we may have our differences, we share the same end goal—ensuring patient access to quality care.

The AAOS also recognizes the importance of orthopaedic unity and the critical role our state orthopaedic and specialty societies play in developing our priorities and key messages. The orthopaedic community may not win every battle, but as a unified team, the medical community can win the war.

Taking positions on issues
In 2008, the AAOS Council on Advocacy has dedicated considerable time and effort to developing clear, concise position statements on a variety of issues, including Medicare, comprehensive healthcare delivery, financing, Medicaid, and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. AAOS volunteers and staff have spent countless hours developing these statements, and the expertise and knowledge-base available to us is astounding.

These efforts have resulted in a landmark step for orthopaedics—the introduction of the Access to America’s Orthopaedic Services Act (AAOS Act) in Congress this summer. This bipartisan legislation is the first comprehensive bill to be introduced in the U.S. Congress with a specific focus on musculoskeletal diseases and conditions. It will enhance the ability of the orthopaedic community to provide patients with the highest quality of health care available. If your representative and senators have not yet signed on as cosponsors, I urge you to contact them and encourage them to do so. I also encourage you to notify the AAOS office of government relations of your actions so that they can follow-up with those members of Congress.

Once again, as in the early 1990s, the AAOS is positioned to play a major role in the national debate on healthcare reform. As we look toward the 111th Congress, our leadership, volunteers, and staff will continue to work to advance the issues of the orthopaedic community as priorities on Capitol Hill.

David A. Halsey, MD, is chair of the AAOS Council on Advocacy. He can be reached at