Tomorrow is the U.S. general election, and the record number of votes already cast this year belies its importance. You have seen the ads and watched the debates and are probably already feeling the weight of the results on your future—both personally and professionally. But what you may not know is that the voter turnout rate of physicians is 10% lower than that of the general public (45% compared with 55%) and 20% lower than other “highly educated” groups, such as lawyers. As orthopaedic surgeons who are accustomed to fixing things, this is one problem that we have an opportunity to solve, by simply casting a ballot. All votes count—voting empowers us.
Too much is at stake for both our patients and our profession for us not to vote. Just listen to this recent episode of The Bone Beat advocacy podcast with Douglas Lundy, MD, FAAOS, and former 2020 candidate for Congress, Knute Buehler, MD, FAAOS, on “Why the Election Matters for MSK Care.” We have to do better as leaders of a profession that is increasingly controlled by the laws and policies of elected officials. The COVID pandemic has created awareness around the critical role we serve in keeping patients moving. However, it should not take a national public health crisis for policymakers to remove burdensome regulations and ensure that we are empowered and equipped to do what we were trained to do. We will use the momentum created by COVID to press for the expansion of physician-owned hospitals and the repeal of unfair Certificate-of-Need laws that preclude us from building and owning ambulatory surgery centers.
We will also continue to fight back against planned cuts to Medicare reimbursement rates resulting from budget neutrality constraints. Fortunately, Representatives Ami Bera, MD (D-Calif.), and Larry Bucshon, MD (R-Ind.), introduced new legislation on Friday that would send temporary payments to fully mitigate the cuts for various services currently baked into next year's Medicare Physician Fee Schedule. They argue that doctors should not see their pay reduced while they are on the front lines of the pandemic response. Rest assured that this did not happen through serendipity. The AAOS Office of Government Relations regularly works with the nonpartisan Doc Caucus, while the Political Action Committee of the AAOS (Orthopaedic PAC) works to support orthopaedic champions like Bera and Bucshon.
Speaking of nonpartisanship, one cannot help but be discouraged by the divisiveness and negative tone of this election. However, failing to engage is not an option. Healthcare is the top issue for American voters and we, as orthopaedic surgeons, know better than anyone how continuously changing policy can impact patient care and the patient’s ability to both access and afford care. That is why I am encouraging all eligible AAOS members to show up at the polls tomorrow and vote. This will ensure that we have a voice in the future of musculoskeletal care. If you are uncertain about where or how to vote, check out the Orthopaedic PAC’s state-by-state voter resources. It will explain all you need to know about casting your ballot.
No matter who you vote for, you will be fulfilling the commitment that our core values established by “leading to serve” and “shaping our future.” We are all unsure about tomorrow’s election results, but we are certain that, however they go, it will bring about a change in the power dynamics of Washington, D.C. This large freshman class will need to be educated on our issues, and our Orthopaedic PAC has been highly effective in getting our message across to policymakers. Investing in the AAOS Orthopaedic PAC (join today) and reaching out to your elected representatives will help us forge these relationships with the new 2021 Congress and beyond.
See you at the voting booth!
Thank you and stay safe,
Joseph A. Bosco, III, MD, FAAOS