Budget negotiations overshadow lobbying efforts
Although scheduled to address attendees at the National Orthopaedic Leadership Conference (NOLC), Speaker of the House John Boehner (R–Ohio) was instead summoned to the White House to help negotiate a plan to prevent a government shutdown. In his stead, House Deputy Whip Greg Walden (R–Ore.) delivered a captivating address, described as “articulate” and “powerful” by many attendees.
As chairman of both the House Republican Leadership and the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, Rep. Walden has substantial jurisdiction over health care. He discussed efforts to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), including provisions that he said would lead to a single-payer program. Although a Democratic-controlled Senate and executive branch will likely stymie House efforts, Rep. Walden promised to continue efforts to replace PPACA with more effective reforms.
A small business owner himself, Rep. Walden expressed a profound depth of knowledge of the current multiple challenges facing AAOS members in private practice. The audience erupted in applause when he stated that real healthcare reform cannot occur without addressing medical liability reform.
Citing statistics that 41 percent of all lawsuits against physicians are not valid, Rep. Walden noted that adopting tort reforms on a federal level could reduce healthcare costs by $54 billion a year.
On other issues, Rep. Walden also showed sympathy with physicians. He pledged to continue efforts to find a permanent fix to the sustainable growth rate formula and to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board.
Rep. Walden acknowledged that his awareness of physician-centered issues is due in part to the advocacy efforts of his close friend and fellow Oregonian, John R. Tongue, MD, first vice-president of the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).
Rep. Walden urged attendees to help educate their congressional representatives. During the open and candid question-and-answer forum that followed, he reaffirmed the importance of AAOS advocates who offer to make themselves available to their representatives as resources. Fittingly, when asked for additional guidance regarding the next morning’s hill visits, he offered some constructive advice.
Rather than bringing emotions to the table, Rep. Walden urged the audience to be factual and to let their congressional representatives know what various legislation means to an individual practice. He referenced a congressional negotiation technique—to ask for the order. He suggested that participants ask, “Can I count on your support? Are there questions I can answer for you?” to get representatives to commit.
Rep. Walden closed the event by thanking NOLC participants for their wealth of knowledge attained in the process of treating musculoskeletal conditions, acknowledging that such knowledge could be invaluable counsel to Congress in achieving healthcare reform.
Roshan Shah, MD, JD, and John Froelich, MD, are members of the AAOS Washington Health Policy Fellows.