In the dozen weeks since COVID-19 began taking its toll on patients and primary care practices nationwide -- to say nothing of the U.S. economy -- the Academy has continually pressed Congress and the administration to deliver short-term financial relief and long-term payment solutions to family physicians.
Now, with a massive assistance package stalled in the Senate and practice closures further shocking the health care system, it's those family physicians' turn to take the bullhorn.
For its June 1-5 "Week of Action" -- a first-time virtual event that's replacing the usual Family Medicine Advocacy Summit -- the Academy is rallying members nationwide to schedule online meetings and lobby their elected officials.
"It is so important for members of Congress to hear directly from their constituents," Academy Director of Government Relations Stephanie Quinn tells AAFP News.
"Our goal with this concentrated virtual effort is to help members engage with their legislators and let them know how this pandemic is affecting them as family physicians dedicated to their communities," she adds.
"The limits of American health care's fee-for-service structure are plainly visible now because of the pandemic. We have to tell Congress that the future of primary care can't be tied to that outmoded structure. This is our opportunity to help shape that future."
On June 1, Quinn will take over from Shawn Martin -- the Academy's incoming CEO/EVP -- as the AAFP's senior vice president for advocacy, practice advancement and policy. The summit carries forward Martin's and Quinn's coordinated, nearly constant efforts this spring to draw federal resources to practices hit hard by the pandemic.
The Week of Action compresses that wide-ranging advocacy into a pointed new message for member physicians to give lawmakers: Stabilize,(www.votervoice.net) strengthen(www.votervoice.net) and sustain(www.votervoice.net) primary care. To back up each S in that directive, the AAFP has prepared detailed, data-driven talking points and backgrounders for participants, along with sample tweets and tips for recording video messages optimal for social media.
AAFP President-elect Ada Stewart, M.D., of Columbia, S.C., posted one such video(youtu.be) that reiterates two central messages of recent AAFP advocacy, calling on Congress to
- target at least $20 billion of provider relief funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act to primary care physicians, and
- pass H.R. 6837/S. 3750 to reinstate the Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payment program for Part B providers and improve the loan terms.
In recent years, the advocacy summit drew AAFP members to Washington, D.C., for a one-day boot camp on the issues, followed by in-person visits to congressional offices. The information the AAFP has prepared this time is no less robust, and the process allows more scheduling latitude while remaining centered on setting up a voice or video call with the elected official, maximizing the appointment's impact by using AAFP materials and scripts, and sharing the results with the Academy.
The summit's communal spirit will animate a scheduled all-member town hall as the individual advocacy plays out. At 8 p.m. ET on June 3, U.S. Reps. Ami Bera, M.D., D-Calif., and Phil Roe, M.D., R-Tenn. (co-chair of the GOP Doctors Caucus)(roe.house.gov) are expected to join that conversation.
Given the all-virtual nature of the week, Quinn is also urging members to post 30-second videos to social media, personalizing the AAFP's message about primary care's recent challenges. Guidance on that is available via the Family Medicine Action Network, and Quinn reminds prospective advocates that support -- from confirming a legislator's contact information to gathering collateral to share with congressional staff -- is available by emailing email@example.com.
"Nothing leaves more of an impression on elected officials than hearing from home," Quinn says.
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