On August 10, 2009, American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) President Joseph D. Zuckerman, MD, announced “Project 535,” a nationwide effort by the AAOS to meet with every member of Congress to discuss priorities on healthcare reform.
The first phase of “Project 535” targeted Congressional representatives while they were in their home districts during the August recess. Nearly 100 AAOS fellows in 38 states contacted their elected representatives or their healthcare policy staff. Discussions on healthcare reform were held with more than 50 members of Congress.
“This is just the start of this important initiative,” said Dr. Zuckerman. “The August recess was just one of the windows of opportunity orthopaedic surgeons have to influence the healthcare debate.”
Reaching key leaders
As part of this early success, AAOS fellows have reached out to key members of Congress who sit on crucial committees. In the Senate, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee has been the focal point in drafting healthcare reform legislation effort. By the end of the August recess, AAOS fellows had met with six of the sitting members, including HELP’s acting chair, Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.).
AAOS fellows were also able to meet with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.).
In the House, fellows met with members of the House Ways and Means Committee—one of the three committees responsible for preparing the House’s healthcare reform legislation. AAOS members connected with Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.), and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).
Fellows also were able to meet with four majority members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee—another of the House committees responsible for healthcare reform.
Continuing to advocate
These key meetings and the numerous meetings with other members of the House and Senate are part of the AAOS’ continued advocacy efforts.
“There is a serious need for healthcare reform, but it must be the right healthcare reform. As highly trained medical experts, we have a tremendous opportunity to advise our elected representatives on how to responsibly approach healthcare reform in a way that secures patients’ access to affordable, quality specialty care,” Dr. Zuckerman said.
The electronic healthcare reform “Calls to Action” includes tools to help fellows reach out to their elected representatives as well as links to fact sheets and suggested talking points.
“Reaching out to our elected representatives helps put a face on the healthcare reform debate. By building relationships and openly discussing the issues at hand, we are better able to affect their understanding of what elements of healthcare reform will best provide our patients with access to affordable, quality specialty care,” Dr. Zuckerman said.
As Congress continues to debate healthcare reform, the AAOS leadership and the office of government relations will continue to provide updates and tools for your use in advocacy efforts.
Nick Piatek is the communications specialist in the AAOS office of government relations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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