Guest Editorial

Concerted Effort Helps AAFP Make a Difference in Washington

January 07, 2013 05:10 pm Randy Wexler, M.D., M.P.H.

The elections are over, and a last-minute budget deal between Congress and the White House prevented a 26.5 percent reduction in the Medicare physician payment rate.

[Randy Wexler, M.D., M.P.H. mug shot]

Randy Wexler, M.D., M.P.H.

But, there is still much work to be done for family medicine in Washington. Although the fiscal cliff was averted, Congress did not repeal the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula. It merely offered yet another temporary patch, this time for one year.

The budget deal also offered a two-month delay on the implementation of the Budget Control Act's sequestration provision, which calls for a 2 percent cut in Medicare payments. The sequestration provision also calls for 8 percent in cuts to discretionary funding for health professions grants under Title VII, the National Health Service Corps and other primary care programs.

In addition, important primary care programs could be targeted by legislators looking for spending cuts during the looming showdown regarding the nation's debt ceiling. And, many nonphysicians are looking to extend their scope of practice, so we must be vigilant and engaged to ensure that primary care is not harmed.

So what can we as members do to help the situation? Ask FamMedPAC.

AAFP members donated more than $900,000 to FamMedPAC, the Academy's federal political action committee, during the 2012 election cycle. Ninety percent of the candidates FamMedPAC supported won their elections.

The PAC also helped many incumbents who are friendly to primary care return for the new Congress. And, it helped several challengers succeed, as well. Notable among the newcomers are Ami Bera, M.D., D-Calif., and Raul Ruiz, M.D., M.P.H., D-Calif.

Although both of those examples are Democrats, FamMedPAC does not favor one political party over another. Instead, the PAC uses a balanced, strategic approach to contributions that includes a points system. For example, we target chairs of committees that affect health care, as well as other members of those committees. It's an approach that has served us well and allows us to engage as many stakeholders as possible.

FamMedPAC's role is to work to ensure that lawmakers friendly to primary care get elected and re-elected. In 2014, one-third of the Senate and the entire House will be up for election.

Our goal for the upcoming two-year election cycle is to raise $1 million. Some other medical societies, such as the AMA, already have achieved that level. Reaching that mark gets the attention of people in Washington and shows that a PAC means business.

If you have not given to FamMedPAC in the past, I ask you to consider doing so. If you have made contributions in the past, I ask for your continued support. You can make a contribution online (Members Only).

Finally, I'd like to thank three original members of the FamMedPAC Board of Directors who stepped down at the end of last year. Jim King, M.D., of Selmer, Tenn; Michael Fleming, M.D., of Shreveport, La.; and Daniel Heinemann, M.D., of Sioux Falls, S.D., have been invaluable members of the Board. They put FamMedPAC on track to becoming one of the largest and most influential health care PACs in the country.

Four new members of the PAC Board started terms Dec. 1: Ellen Brull, M.D., of Glenview, Ill.; Jason Dees, D.O., of Jackson, Miss.; Dennis Salisbury, M.D., of Butte, Mont.; and Hugh Taylor, M.D., of South Hamilton, Mass. I look forward to the energy and new ideas they will bring to the table.

We must continue to evolve and move forward. With your help, we will.

Randy Wexler, M.D., M.P.H., of New Albany, Ohio, is the chair of the FamMedPAC Board of Directors.