Published 10/1/2010
John T. Gill, MD

11/2/10: The president’s D-Day

Midterm election could change the face of Congress

Whether you like Obamacare or loathe it, the election on Nov. 2, 2010, is certain to become a referendum for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and will likely determine if the new healthcare model flourishes or withers on the vine.

Few provisions of the new law actually go into effect this year; most major provisions don’t go into effect until 2012 or later. A significant change in the makeup and leadership of the U.S. House and Senate could also mean significant changes to the law.

Democrats now hold a 77-seat majority in the House and chair all committees. A net loss of 39 seats would result in a Republican Speaker and chairs for all committees.

What are the odds?
Most incumbents are pretty safe. According to the nonpartisan political Web site
RealClearPolitics.com, 129 House seats are in play; some lean Republican, some lean Democrat, and 35 are listed as pure toss-ups (as of Sept. 10, 2010).

Interestingly, of the 129 seats in play, 113 are currently held by Democrats and 16 are held by Republicans. More amazing is that of the 35 toss-up seats, only 1 is currently held by a Republican. These numbers suggest that the GOP might gain 40 to 50 seats in the House this November.

Another nonpartisan Web site, RothenbergPoliticalReport.com, lists 88 seats (76 Democratic and 12 Republican) in play (as of Sept. 10, 2010). This portends gains of 30 to 40 seats for the Republicans.

The situation in the Senate
The Senate currently has 41 Republicans, 57 Democrats, and 2 Independents who caucus with the Democrats. In November, 37 senatorial elections will be held. The Republicans need to net 10 seats to take the majority, but will probably gain just 5 to 8 seats. But given Senate rules that require 60 votes to invoke cloture and end debate on a bill, the dynamics will change significantly even if the majority does not change.

What it means to you
As a result, the 112th Congress will look a lot different than the current one, with many new faces and potentially a new Speaker and committee chairs in the House. With just a few weeks left until the general election, the most important thing you can do is show up and vote for the candidates you support, and be sure your family and staff do the same.

Once the election is over, however, the newly elected individuals will need key contacts—orthopaedic surgeons who are willing to meet with these officials and develop meaningful, functional relationships with them and key staff.

These key contacts are the most effective way for the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) to deliver its message on healthcare-related legislation. If you reside in one of the House districts or states that elect a new member to Congress, consider becoming a key contact for the AAOS. If you participated in a newly elected member’s campaign, hosted or attended a fund raiser, conducted candidate interviews, or know a new member personally, you can become a key contact.

The more orthopaedic surgeons we have interacting directly with members of Congress, the more effective our organization will be in influencing future healthcare legislation. Please contact the office of government relations if you are interested in becoming a key contact.

John T. Gill, MD, chairs the AAOS Advocacy Resource Committee. He can be reached at jgill@ohmyknee.com