As a pragmatic, issue-driven PAC, the Orthopaedic PAC has no allegiance to any party and supports both Democratic and Republican legislators who support our issues. Some of these legislators may support us on all issues; others may provide important support on only a single or several issues.

AAOS Now

Published 9/1/2008
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Stuart L. Weinstein, MD

Health care and the 2008 election

Orthopaedic PAC presents opportunity for access

Not since President William Jefferson Clinton’s first term has health care been as high a priority as it is in this election. Health care will also be one of the defining issues in many congressional races. Both presidential candidates have been talking about their plans for healthcare reform. The American public expects each candidate to address the issues related to our “unsustainable” healthcare system.

The increasing threat of loss of access to care is felt not only by the growing numbers of uninsured or underinsured Americans, but also by senior citizens, whose access to care is constantly threatened by the failure of Congress to address the flawed physician payment formula other than with “band-aid,” eleventh-hour “fixes.” Because these fixes generally borrow against the future, they make more drastic cuts inevitable and make fixing the formula even more expensive and less probable.

In addition, cost and quality issues will be addressed by both congressional and presidential candidates.

If these are not enough reasons for orthopaedic surgeons to care, other critical issues that threaten both patient access and provider delivery of quality care also remain on the “political table.” The following are just a few of these important issues:

  • Who will control office-based imaging and under what circumstances?
  • How can we ensure that “quality measures” are developed in an appropriate manner?
  • How can health information technology be introduced appropriately and affordably for physicians?
  • When will medical liability reform be addressed on a federal level?
  • How can the issues of appropriate care and reimbursement under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act be addressed?
  • How can we ensure adequate funding for musculoskeletal research?
  • What about reimbursement under Medicaid?
  • Will patients have appropriate access to specialty care under some of the models being proposed?

PAC participation is vital
The only way to ensure that the orthopaedic surgeon community is represented and able to present our point of view on these important issues is through a vibrant political action committee (PAC).

We are indeed fortunate that so many fellows and members of the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) recognize the important need to make annual PAC contributions. Thanks to your vision and generosity, the Orthopaedic PAC has become the leading medical specialty PAC in Washington. The dramatic growth in the Orthopaedic PAC during the last two election cycles (Fig. 1) has made orthopaedics a major player in Washington, D.C.

Increasingly, AAOS members are realizing the importance of being at the table and participating in the discussions that affect our practices and—more importantly—that affect patient access and our ability to deliver quality care to our patients. We must not stand on the sidelines and allow others to determine our and our patients’ fates.

The PAC provides access and opportunity. It gains our representatives access to key members of Congress and their staffs who make the decisions that affect our practices and our patients’ lives. With that access, we have opportunities to present well-reasoned positions on the issues. The PAC is the voice of orthopaedics on Capitol Hill; the more vibrant the Orthopaedic PAC is, the louder and stronger is the voice of orthopaedics!

Achievements and aspirations
This year, in part due to the strength of the Orthopaedic PAC, an important piece of legislation was introduced in Congress. The Access to America’s Orthopaedic Services Act (AAOS Act), a comprehensive, musculoskeletal legislative agenda, was introduced in the House by Reps. Hilda Solis, D-Calif., and Mike Burgess, R-Texas. We expect that the AAOS Act will soon be introduced in the Senate as well.

“This legislation is indeed a great victory for the orthopaedic profession and our patients,” said David A. Halsey, MD, chair of the AAOS Council on Advocacy. “The burden of musculoskeletal diseases and conditions has a much deeper impact on the nation’s health care system than many realize. To fully address this impact and ensure Americans have 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.”

The AAOS Act aims to address issues of importance to the orthopaedic community and its subspecialties. It is the first comprehensive bill ever introduced with a specific focus on musculoskeletal diseases and conditions. Successful passage will depend on enlisting the aid of both Republicans and Democrats and building a coalition that supports musculoskeletal issues. Such a coalition could have a wide-ranging impact on other legislation as well.

Act locally
The PAC wants AAOS members to become more active on the local level and has resources and staff to help you do just that. Legislators recognize the importance of listening to their constituents. If you are willing to develop relationships with your Congressional representatives by holding fundraisers for them or talking with them on behalf of the orthopaedic community, please contact me so I can help you start the process. With hundreds of orthopaedic surgeons actively engaging their Congressional representatives at the local level, change will happen.

The AAOS Presidential line and Board of Directors have made a 100 percent commitment to supporting the Orthopaedic PAC. If every member of the AAOS would become a PAC member, think of the power and prestige orthopaedics would have.

If you haven’t yet made your 2008 contribution to the PAC, I urge you to do so now! Consider donating at the $1,000 level; if you have already made a lower pledge, consider supplementing it to the $1,000 level. All contributions, however, no matter how large or small, are welcome.

To those AAOS fellows who are regular contributors to the PAC, I extend my personal thanks. To those of you who have never given to the PAC, I hope you realize the importance of becoming a regular contributor, particularly in this election year. Visit the PAC Web site (www.aaos.org/pac). You can review information on issues, find out about recent activities, and make a donation at whatever level is comfortable for you. Just realize that your support of the Ortho­paedic PAC is critical to achieving the mission of the AAOS.

If you want to discuss the Orthopaedic PAC, advocacy issues, or other related concerns, feel free to contact me.

Stuart L. Weinstein, MD, is a past president of the AAOS and current chair of the Orthopaedic PAC. He can be reached at stuart-weinstein@uiowa.edu