The first rule of family medicine fight club is: We do talk about family medicine fight club.
The second rule of family medicine fight club — OK, officially, I’m talking about the Academy’s 2021 Family Medicine Advocacy Summit — is that it’s neither an exclusive nor an expensive club for AAFP physicians and family medicine residents or students to join. For a few more days, anyway. April 30 is the registration deadline for FMAS 2021, which is just three weeks away.
Our no-travel, all-online event (for the reason you’d expect after the past year and change) happens May 18 and 19. We brief you and answer questions the evening of that first day; your lobbying sessions, arranged by your state chapters, take place May 19.
As I’ve said before in this space, FMAS is a big deal: your once-a-year chance to join colleagues and directly engage policymakers in the push to gird and grow the specialty. It’s a big deal because, to your members of Congress, you’re big deals: constituents with a unique, evidence-derived perspective on public health and the well-being of your representatives’ other constituents. The story of your practice and your patients is always valuable in your district. It’s as green as grassroots advocacy gets, and it’s never been more important than it is right now. In fact, 78% of legislative staff credit grassroots efforts with some or a lot of influence, which is saying something when Congress gets some 200 million messages a year from constituents.
For this virtual fly-in, we are concentrating our energy — that is, your energy as FMAS participants meeting with your congressional representatives — on three issues about which the AAFP has already laid considerable groundwork: securing Medicaid pay parity, locking in telehealth flexibility for primary care and improving primary care access for patients enrolled in high-deductible health plans.
Much health care policy trickles down from that top item: payment. I told you last month that we’re encouraged by recent policy movement on this front. But the AAFP is also seeking passage of legislation to raise Medicaid payment rates for primary care services to at least Medicare rates.
We have reminded Congress about last year’s 6 million new enrollees in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, who urgently need primary care. We have spotlighted that this need is acute among the Black and Hispanic patients who have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and also make up a majority of Medicaid enrollees. And we’ve said that continuing to undervalue primary care as the nation digs out of the pandemic threatens the specialty itself and, therefore, public health.
We’ve made a strong case with big, compelling numbers. No one physician can stand in for those numbers, but you can lend them the context of your individual voice. You can offer data (gently correcting misinformation if any comes up) balanced with anecdotes (how has telehealth changed your practice?). And you can turn a substantive conversation into a relationship that strengthens the specialty and benefits your community.
Oh, and one last rule about the club: You won’t be fighting alone.
The day before FMAS Virtual advocacy day — Tuesday, May 18 — you'll be briefed on the issues in the live training session I mentioned. And we’ve prepared several short on-demand modules to sharpen your storytelling skills and get you ready for the office protocols and technical ins and outs of virtual lobbying, so that you’ll feel confident well ahead of your meetings.
It’s coming up fast. I hope you’ll sign up today.
Stephanie Quinn is senior vice president of advocacy, practice advancement and policy.
Stephanie Quinn, AAFP Senior Vice President of Advocacy, Practice Advancement and Policy. Read author bio »