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Published 9/1/2011
Stuart L. Weinstein, MD

Orthopaedic PAC keeps the doors open

The battle over healthcare reform is far from over!

As the Deficit Reduction talks continue in Washington, DC, continuing discussions over healthcare reform and debt-exacerbating policies like the Sustainable Growth Rate, Medicare, and medical liability reform remain a high priority. Not surprisingly, many of these issues have been included in discussions and white papers concerning the deficit and any proposed solutions. For years, orthopaedic surgeons have been developing relationships with Congressional members through advocacy efforts by the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) and the efforts of the Orthopaedic Political Action Committee (PAC). These efforts have resulted in various legislative victories repealing provisions in the healthcare law and the introduction of new legislation.

Because of this constant influence in Washington, pro-orthopaedic issues and the potential of future pro-orthopaedic legislation are a priority for many key members of Congress. Critical orthopaedic issues currently being discussed on Capitol Hill include preserving in-office ancillary services, attaining collective bargaining rights, and repealing harmful provisions—such as the Independent Payment Advisory Board—within the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Orthopaedic PAC is key in helping AAOS members and staff develop relationships with important members of Congress to continue these discussions.

Implementing the ACA
Although the ACA included several positive provisions—including extending coverage of dependent children until age 26, ending lifetime caps on healthcare benefits, and eliminating the exclusionary term “pre-existing condition”—the law also established some barriers to care that need to be altered or removed. In addition, many additional policies necessary to establish real health insurance reform were excluded from the ACA.

As the United States proceeds with the implementation phase of the law, it is critical that the AAOS has the resources to continue meeting with and supporting members of both parties who understand the importance of orthopaedic practice to ensure that no part of the statute interferes with patient access to orthopaedic services or impairs safety and quality of care.

The importance of participation
As chair of the Orthopaedic PAC, I am often asked, “Why should I give to the PAC?” My answer is very simple: If orthopaedic surgeons don’t have a vibrant PAC, we have no voice in the debates taking place on Capitol Hill that affect our practices and our patients. Without a vibrant PAC, we might as well sit back and take whatever the government bureaucrats send our way.

AAOS members who say, “I am in academic medicine so I don’t need to care,” or “I work for a hospital or a healthcare system that will take care of me” are wrong. The only organization that looks out for the best interests of orthopaedic surgeons, regardless of practice situation, is the AAOS.

It is only through a vibrant PAC that AAOS can advocate on your behalf. The PAC opens doors! It gets AAOS members and staff audiences with members of Congress and provides the opportunity to present a well-reasoned point of view on the issues.

Unfortunately, 72 percent of AAOS members let the other 28 percent “do the heavy lifting,” believing that they don’t need to participate. If 90 percent of AAOS members contributed to the Orthopaedic PAC, it would be one of the most influential organizations in Washington, DC.

Trial lawyers are successful in fighting tort reform because their members “get it.” Well over 90 percent of trial lawyers contribute to their PAC.

The healthcare reform debate will go on for several years and we, as orthopaedic surgeons, need to do everything we can in this election cycle to elect members of Congress who understand the importance of the patient-physician relationship, want to ensure that patients have access to orthopaedic care, and will support measures that help us improve the quality of care we deliver.

Those readers of AAOS Now who have contributed to the PAC have my grateful thanks. I hope that readers who haven’t yet made a contribution see the importance of giving and get on board. Your support will enable the AAOS to continue to fight for the things we as a profession collectively think are critical for our patients.

Stuart L. Weinstein, MD, is a past president of the AAOS and the current chair of the Orthopaedic PAC. He can be reached at stuart-weinstein@iowa.edu

For more information about the Orthopaedic PAC and/or to contribute online to the PAC, visit www.aaos.org/pac or contact Cheka Gage at gage@aaos.org