Guest Editorial

One Voice Becomes Many via Support for FamMedPAC

January 15, 2014 04:24 pm Randy Wexler, M.D., M.P.H.

One-third of the U.S. Senate and the entire House of Representatives will be up for election this year. That presents an important opportunity for AAFP members and FamMedPAC, the AAFP's federal political action committee, to help re-elect legislators who are friendly to family medicine and to identify and support challengers who understand the importance of primary care.

Last year, FamMedPAC raised more than $415,000 and contributed $392,500 to 100 congressional candidates: 58 Democrats and 42 Republicans. We are nonpartisan in our support, and we look at where candidates stand on a broad range of issues that affect family medicine rather than at their party affiliations. We work to elect -- and re-elect -- those who are willing to work with us on those issues.

During the previous two-year election cycle that ended in 2012, AAFP members donated more than $920,000 to FamMedPAC, including nearly $494,000 during the election year; 90 percent of the candidates we supported were elected.

In addition, FamMedPAC is part of a three-pronged strategy for advocating family medicine's issues that also includes the Academy's lobbying staff in Washington and the grassroots efforts of AAFP members. The PAC can amplify the message of the Academy's members, but it must be strong to be effective, because there are PACs for virtually every other physician specialty, as well as for nurses. Although we have some key issues in common with these PACs, the messages they deliver to legislators don't always agree with what is best for family physicians. FamMedPAC is the only PAC solely dedicated to promoting family medicine.

It gives us vital access to legislators and key congressional staff that we would otherwise lack. And there are so many issues Congress needs to hear about from family physicians whose practices and patients are affected by the laws they pass. For example, some subspecialist groups claim that their members should qualify for primary care incentives, but legislators need to hear the truth about what primary care is from primary care physicians.

CMS is working on implementing care coordination fees that would help primary care practices that desperately need a boost to cover work for which we currently are not paid. Not surprisingly, subspecialists want a piece of that pie, but the AAFP and the Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care are working to define and value care management. When that project is completed -- likely later this year -- it will be used in our advocacy efforts.

Although some of us would like to stay above the fray and out of "dirty politics," the reality is that advocating for our practices, our patients and our specialty is critical. If legislators aren't hearing from us about key issues, such as graduate medical education, extension of Medicaid parity payments or the sustainable growth rate formula, they likely will hear messages about these and other important health care issues -- quite possibly the wrong messages -- from someone else.

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. Log in with your member ID now to make a contribution online.

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