If not now, when? If not you, who?
The Obama administration’s press for healthcare reform should provide an impetus for every orthopaedic surgeon—indeed, every healthcare provider—to be involved with advocacy. Not since the early years of the Clinton administration has there been so much activity on the issue of health care.
As of this writing (early August), healthcare reform is a major focus for both houses of Congress. Every day, stories about the status of America’s healthcare system and the need for reform make the national and local news media. In the Senate, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee has passed one healthcare reform bill and the Finance Committee is working on another version of reform. In the House, three committees—Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Education and Labor—managed to pass the “America’s Affordable Health Care Choices Act,” which will be considered by the full House this month. Other proposals have also been put forth by several senators and representatives, making it likely that the debate will continue into the fall.
What will evolve is still unknown. What is known is that orthopaedic surgeons need to be at the table, expressing the view of the orthopaedic community on issues such as imaging, Medicare payment reform, access to specialty care, and medical liability reform. The way we have been able to be a part of the debate is through the Orthopaedic Political Action Committee (Orthopaedic PAC).
What is the Orthopaedic PAC?
The Orthopaedic PAC is one way that the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) and orthopaedic specialty societies with advocacy as a part of their mission communicate their legislative priorities. The PAC gives orthopaedic surgeons access and the opportunity to present the orthopaedic point of view on the issues to members of Congress. If you are willing to develop a relationship with your legislators, now is the best time to act, and the Orthopaedic PAC can help support this relationship.
The Orthopaedic PAC is now one of the largest medical PACs in the United States (Fig. 1). In the last election, more than 90 percent of the candidates supported by the Orthopaedic PAC were elected to office. These candidates support our positions and, as a result, funding opportunities for orthopaedic extremity trauma research through the Department of Defense have increased substantially. (See “Orthopaedic trauma research receives $66 million,” November 2008 AAOS Now.) In addition, the Access to America’s Orthopaedic Services Act has been introduced in the 111th Congress, holding promise for advancements that will benefit our patients and our profession. (See “AAOS Act of 2009 introduced in Senate”)
Although more than one in four AAOS fellows contributed to the PAC in the last election cycle, some other professions have much higher participation rates. With the emphasis on healthcare reform, AAOS President Joseph D. Zuckerman, MD, has said, “Participation in the PAC is a critical issue for this year. Our goal is to achieve 50 percent member participation in the PAC for the 2009-2010 election cycle.”
What you can do
The healthcare debate clearly shows that something must change; the current healthcare system isn’t sustainable for the long term. You can have an impact on how that change evolves. Instead of sitting by and just complaining, now is the time for you to become a player in the political process.
You have three people in Congress “working for you”—two senators and a representative. They need to hear from you. Developing a relationship with your Congressional representatives will maximize your impact on the healthcare debate. They need to hear your opinions. They need to know that they can look to you for advice on how proposals will affect patient safety, access, and quality of care.
As a trusted member of the medical community, you can tell them—and they will listen, particularly if you have relationships with them. Building relationships is easy. You can start small, with a letter or phone call. Regularly sending thoughtful messages on issues of concern will build name recognition. The AAOS will let you know when to contact your Congressional representatives and will provide “talking points” on issues that need to be addressed.
You can progress to attending a fundraiser or rally. You may even wish to host a fundraiser or volunteer during a campaign. The AAOS Government Relations Web site includes regular issue updates; Advocacy Now, a bimonthly e-newsletter that features the latest on AAOS advocacy efforts; links that will help you get in touch with your senator or representative; sample letters and talking points, and much more.
In my opinion, every orthopaedic surgeon should take an active role in advocacy, whether that involves building a relationship with a member of Congress or making an annual donation to the Orthopaedic PAC. If you already give regularly, I thank you and encourage you to urge others in your practice, your community, and your state to participate.
Now is not the time to sit on the sidelines. To find out more, visit www.aaos.org/pac
Stuart L. Weinstein, MD, is chair of the Orthopaedic PAC. He can be reached at email@example.com
Do it today
Three things you can do in the next five minutes to get involved in healthcare reform:
- Visit www.aaos.org/dc and click on “Advocacy Now.” Find out what the AAOS is doing and how you can participate.
- Visit www.aaos.org/pac and find out more about the Orthopaedic PAC.
- E-mail Lauren Bates or call toll-free (877) 389-AAOS for more information about how to become more active in advocacy efforts.