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Presidential Update: Working to Build Relationships with New Physician Legislators

November 9, 2020

Last week, I urged all of you to vote, and it appears that the entire country listened! Nearly two-thirds of those who were eligible to do so voted. This exceeds the modern-day record of 63.8% set in 1960 and may eventually surpass the record of 65.7% that was established in 1908. While the results of 16 races have yet to be called, the Political Action Committee of the AAOS (OrthoPAC) has been busy tabulating the pro-physician candidates and races it supported in the 2020 election cycle. One of our most prominent advocates in the House of Representatives, Roger Marshall, MD (R-KS), will now be the nation’s newest physician senator, bringing the total number of physician senators to four. The others are Senator Bill Cassidy, MD (R-LA), a gastroenterologist; Senator Rand Paul, MD (R-KY), an ophthalmologist; and our colleague and AAOS Fellow, Senator John Barrasso, MD, FAAOS (R-WY). They join 12 other physicians in the House of Representatives, including Ami Bera, MD (D-CA), an internist and co-sponsor of H.R. 8702; Raul Ruiz, MD (D-CA), an ER physician and lead sponsor of the surprise billing legislation we support; and Kim Schrier, MD (D-WA), a pediatrician. This is a historic number of physicians in Congress and will enable us to have a more effective voice for our patients and profession.

Of the 245 candidates for federal office that the OrthoPAC supported in the 2020 election cycle, 130 were Republicans, 114 were Democrats, and one was an Independent. We are happy to report that our success rate currently sits at 92%, and we look forward to sharing even more victories in the coming days. Your OrthoPAC is evolving its strategy to educate those new members of Congress whose healthcare policies are not yet fully formed on our issues. For example, this year, we supported 27 nonincumbents running for office, including Mondaire Jones (D-NY), who I met with personally. He is an attorney who won the seat of retiring long-term representative Nita Lowey. We were one of the first groups to meet with him, and this early relationship will pay dividends in the coming years.

The OrthoPAC does not participate in the presidential election. Supporting individual presidential candidates is not a wise way to use our resources. The shift to value-based healthcare is agnostic to who inhabits the White House. No matter the political philosophy, all leaders agree that higher quality, less expensive healthcare is good for our country. It is how this is achieved that affects our patients and us. The details of how to increase value are then worked out by Congress and regulatory groups, such as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), and this is where we invest our assets.

Meanwhile, we are continuing to see activity on Capitol Hill this month with regard to finalized policies from CMS that are scheduled to cut Medicare payments to orthopaedic codes by approximately 5%, plus an additional 5% for hip and knee procedures. These anticipated changes will go into effect January 1, 2021, and are likely to destabilize health system financing and drastically diminish the opportunity for physician practices and hospitals to recover financially from COVID. AAOS has been instrumental in continuing to advocate for a solution to avert the cuts and is proud to support the new high-impact legislation that I shared with you last week, which we now know is called H.R. 8702, the Holding Providers Harmless from Medicare Cuts During COVID-19 Act of 2020. I encourage each and every one of you to reach out to your representatives through the AAOS Advocacy Action Center and ask them to co-sponsor this bill, which will provide a “relief payment” and alleviate any Medicare reimbursement differences between 2020 and 2021/2022. We need all hands on deck to drive attention to this important issue and the potential risks these cuts pose to patient access to musculoskeletal care.

Remember that, when the divisive politics and election are behind us, it will be time to come together as an orthopaedic community and get to work. We have relationships to build and priorities to share with the new Congress. Likewise, our political team will continue to be a powerful tool in our advocacy arsenal for winning the healthcare battle we all face together.

Thank you and stay safe,

Joseph A. Bosco, III, MD, FAAOS
AAOS President