Guest Opinion

FamMedPAC Keeps Family Medicine at Table During 2012 Election Cycle

January 05, 2012 02:30 pm Jim King, M.D.

With a national election looming later this year, family physicians -- even those who are unable to meet with their members of Congress in Washington -- can influence health care policy with more than just their ballots.

[James King, M.D., F.A.A.F.P.]

Jim King, M.D., Chair, FamMedPAC Board of Directors

How, you ask? Consider donating to the AAFP's federal political action committee, FamMedPAC.

In fact, 1,739 of you donated more than $420,000 last year, which is an increase from 2010 in both the amount of donations and the number of donators. This generosity allowed FamMedPAC to make $321,500 in contributions to 88 candidates in 2011.

And, with this strong start, FamMedPAC has a real chance to collect and distribute $1 million during the two-year election cycle that will culminate with the November elections. That's significant because many people in Washington take note when a political action committee reaches the $1 million mark in donations. They see it as a sign that an organization means business and recognizes the need to work within the system to get its message across.

I know -- the idea of contributing to political campaigns is distasteful to some of you, but it's a fact that until the rules of the game are changed, we will only get our message across by playing by the existing rules. And the money that FamMedPAC raises results in opportunities that put us in front of Washington decision-makers. That means gaining access to our members of Congress at events, meetings and even in small-group settings where we can clearly expand on the AAFP's positions on issues that are important to our practices and our patients.

Some of the activities FamMedPAC has undertaken during the past year include making campaign contributions available to several AAFP constituent chapters, which allowed Academy members to present checks directly to their members of Congress. We plan to continue that strategy in 2012.

In all, FamMedPAC contributed $175,000 to 45 Democratic candidates, $144,000 to 42 Republican candidates and $2,500 to one independent candidate. And FamMedPAC has a history of aligning itself with the right candidates. In the 2010 election cycle, we contributed more than $675,000 to candidates for federal office, and three-fourths of those candidates were victorious in their campaigns.

It's important to note, however, that FamMedPAC is nonpartisan and does not consider where a candidate stands on issues unrelated to health care. We are strictly focused on electing, or re-electing, candidates who support the AAFP's legislative goals.

FamMedPAC typically has focused on members of key committees because these legislators often make decisions that affect family medicine. For example, last year, FamMedPAC contributed to eight Republicans and eight Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee, which is one of the key Congressional committees that affects health care policy.

But if FamMedPAC reaches its $1 million goal, it would allow us to move beyond certain committees and reach out to candidates running for the first time, candidates with a medical background or interest, and other candidates who understand our issues.

If you have donated to FamMedPAC in the past, thank you, and please keep it up. If you've never donated, I urge you to start now. It's easy to donate online -- visit the FamMedPAC website (Members Only), and click on "Donate Now!"

I know that many of you are time-strapped, and you don't have time to advocate for family medicine in Washington or even participate in events in your local community. But all of you can contribute to family medicine's common goals, which ultimately will benefit our patients, our practices, our communities and our specialty.