Council on Advocacy brings physicians’ issues to Congress
With one of the largest “freshman” classes in more than 60 years, the 112th Congress is taking on some major issues—including healthcare reform. To help bring these new members of Congress up to date on issues affecting the physician community, the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) hosted two “briefing” sessions earlier this year.
Council on Advocacy Chair Peter J. Mandell, MD, and Advocacy Resource Committee Chair John T. Gill, MD, joined representatives from several physician specialty societies to give freshman Republican and Democratic members of Congress an inside look at the top issues facing the physician community. The AAOS and Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) hosted the Republican briefing on February 8, 2011, and the AAOS was the sole host of the Democratic briefing held on March 8, 2011.
During the briefings, society representatives addressed a number of issues, including the following:
- Medicare sustainable growth rate formula
- medical liability reform
- health information technology
- emergency response preparedness
- emergency department coverage
- quality reporting measures
- healthcare transparency issues
- physician ownership of ancillary services
- other provisions within the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA)
Dr. Mandell spoke to both Republicans and Democrats on the potential benefits of Accountable Care Organizations and the negative impact that the Independent Payment Advisory Board could have on the physician community and their patients.
Communication is crucial
Both briefings emphasized the importance of building relationships between physicians and their members of Congress. At the Republican briefing, Dr. Gill highlighted his close relationship with Rep. Sessions—a message that was echoed by Rep. Sessions.
According to Rep. Sessions, his relationship with Dr. Gill has helped him to relay the AAOS message to his colleagues. Rep. Sessions also stated that reforming the healthcare system cannot be achieved unless medicine (doctors) and legislation (members of Congress) work together.
Similarly, at the Democratic briefing, freshman Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) stressed the importance of hearing the stories of physicians, regardless of specialty. “To successfully implement such a massive change, we need to hear about the real life, real-time effects that PPACA’s implementation is having on your practices and your patients.”
As a former physician assistant and clinical instructor at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles, Rep. Bass also raised the issue of medical student debt. Increasing debt incurred by medical students is having an impact on the nation’s physician shortage crisis, she noted, and part of the solution may be to make medical school more affordable and accessible to all demographic groups.
In addition to the information presented by the physicians, freshman representatives received a packet of information with a contact sheet of all the specialty societies in Washington, D.C.; a medical acronyms sheet; brief outlines of the issues; and a letter from the Doctors’ Caucus, a group of physicians and nurses serving in Congress.
Madeleine Lovette is the communications specialist in the AAOS office of government relations. She can be reached at email@example.com
Participating physician groups
American Academy of Ophthalmology
American Association of Neurological Surgeons
American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American College of Cardiology
American College of Emergency Physicians
American College of Physicians
American College of Radiology
American College of Surgeons
American Osteopathic Association
American Society of Anesthesiology
Society of Thoracic Surgeons