The summer heat means that the 2012 election season is also heating up—and the impact of the November elections on the delivery of health care should not be underestimated. Regardless of the decisions reached by the U.S. Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the individual mandate and its severability from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the fate of healthcare reform will be in the hands of the newly elected members of the House and Senate because Congress will determine how the healthcare law will be either implemented or dismantled.
In the critical months leading up to the election, we, as orthopaedic surgeons, have a responsibility to our patients and our practices not only to support the campaigns of incumbents who have demonstrated their concern for our issues, but also to reach out to first-time candidates or candidates who may not currently see eye-to-eye with us on some issues.
The Candidate Briefing Guide
Although several physicians are running for Congress, Congressional candidates in general rely on us, their orthopaedic surgeon constituents, to educate them on the social and economic challenges affecting our patients and the orthopaedic community. We have the power to influence any candidate if we present our arguments clearly and concisely and we back them up with personal experiences.
The Candidate Briefing Guide contains brief summaries of priority issues for orthopaedics, ranging from funding for musculoskeletal research to antitrust, medical liability, and Medicare payment reform. It also includes a series of questions that can be asked during town hall meetings and other campaign events that candidates might hold.
Putting the guide to use
The AAOS 2012 Candidate Briefing Guide can be used in a variety of ways during the campaign season. The following ideas can get you started.
During any one-on-one time with a Congressional candidate at a campaign event or fundraiser, ask the candidate a few of the suggested questions in the booklet. You can also publically ask these questions during a town hall meeting or open forum.
Candidates who support many or all of our positions deserve our support, and we encourage you to host fundraisers for them. The Orthopaedic PAC can help you set up an event. Fundraisers not only help strengthen campaign coffers, but also serve as the foundation for building that all-important personal relationship with a member of Congress or first-time candidate. The event also gives them an opportunity to speak to voters from the medical community whose support is critical to their election.
If, during a one-on-one or campaign event, you discover that a candidate needs more information on an issue(s), you can leave the Briefing Guide with the candidate. Later, you can follow up with the candidate via email, a phone call to the campaign office, or attendance at another campaign event, to determine whether or not the candidate has solidified his or her position on an issue(s).
If you find that the candidate does not agree with many of the positions supported by the orthopaedic community, do not be discouraged. This feedback will assist the Orthopaedic PAC in determining whether or not to support the candidate’s campaign.
The AAOS Candidate Briefing Guide is an important tool that you can use to educate candidates for office and determine their level of support. You can download and print the AAOS Candidate Briefing Guide from the Orthopaedic PAC website (www.aaos.org/pac). We encourage you to report any feedback you receive when using your guide to Kristin Leighty, Orthopaedic PAC manager in the AAOS office of government relations at email@example.com
John T. Gill, MD, chairs the AAOS Advocacy Resource Committee and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Stuart L. Weinstein, MD, is a past president of the AAOS and current chair of the Orthopaedic PAC. He can be reached at email@example.com
Briefing Guide sample questions
Consider asking questions like these when you attend a town hall meeting or other event sponsored by a candidate running for Congress:
- Are you committed to achieving a permanent fix to the sustainable growth rate formula that is fully paid for, sustainable long-term, rewards quality, and reflects increased practice cost?
- Are you committed to increasing the funding for musculoskeletal research?
- Are you committed to making the tough choices to ensure the sustainability of the Medicare program?
- Do you support the policies that encourage the integration of clinical services as part of achieving a more efficient healthcare delivery system?
- Would you support extending the right to collectively negotiate with health insurance companies to all healthcare professionals in order to maintain quality patient care while ensuring fair competition?