Nine members of the ASSH Government Affairs Committee traveled to Washington, DC, on May 1 to lobby our congressional representatives during the orthopaedic surgery "Day on the Hill." This event occurs in conjunction with the National Orthopaedic Leadership Conference.
The purpose of these visits to Capitol Hill is to discuss with our senators and representatives the issues that are important to ASSH members. As a small specialty society, we have aligned with the AAOS-PAC, who coordinates the meeting, provides advocacy training and provides a list of "speaking points" with detailed supporting information about important issues. The GAC members coordinate with their state orthopaedic societies, who arrange the appointments with the congressional members from each members' home state.
The most pertinent issue discussed at the Hill visits this year was repeal of the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula. As many are aware, Congress came very close to passing a bipartisan bill that would provide a permanent solution to the Medicare fee dilemma, but fell short at the last moment due to disagreements on how to fund the proposed solution. The vast majority of Congressional members and staffers with whom we spoke support the repeal of SGR, but were doubtful that any new legislation would be introduced on this topic prior to the November elections.
This is the fourth consecutive year I have participated in these visits to Capitol Hill. I have learned two very important elements about participation in government affairs: 1) Advocacy requires practice. Each year I have demonstrated greater confidence and facility in sitting down with Congressional members and staffers to discuss important issues. 2) Repeated contact with your representatives builds relationships and increases your credibility. Each year, I notice that staffers recognize me and respect my commitment to the issues by paying greater attention to what I have to say.
I strongly encourage all ASSH members to participate in advocacy efforts at the local, state, and/or federal level. It gets easier with practice, and a policy of engagement is the only way to be certain that our voices are heard.