Through UROPAC - Urology's Advocate on Capitol Hill, the AACU recently redoubled its commitment to connect urologists with their representatives and has found early success in doing so.
Based on a partnership with Urology Times, articles from the American Association of Clinical Urologists (AACU) provide updates on legislative processes and issues affecting urologists. We welcome your comments and suggestions. Contact the AACU government affairs office at 847-517-1050 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Given the complex nature of health care issues, elected officials depend on subject matter experts to enhance their understanding of a proposed policy's impact on their district. Office staff and lobbyists serve as one source of information, providing an insider's perspective that is peppered with political considerations. It is worth noting, however, that lawmakers consistently assess direct contact with constituents as highly influential during the legislative process.
How, then, can urologists connect with legislators to explain how a proposed law or regulation impacts patients and the community?
Professional organizations facilitate such relationship building using multiple approaches. Fly-ins and lobby days are the most visible ways groups connect members to their elected officials. What's more, an annual meeting may include one or more policy makers on the agenda. The AACU, for example, empowers independent, academic, and employed urologists with information and resources to promote the specialty's particular interests. Online issue briefs succinctly explain the profession's priorities, and toolkits advise members on scheduling an in-district meeting, hosting an office visit, and comfortably talking with legislators.
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Through UROPAC - Urology's Advocate on Capitol Hill, the AACU recently redoubled its commitment to connect urologists with their representatives while “in-district,” away from Washington where they're prone to distractions. The AACU is now the sole sponsor of UROPAC, which actively represents the interests of all urologists.
In October alone, UROPAC sent more than a dozen urologists to local political fundraising events that support Republicans and Democrats. Florida physician Ronald Wheeler, MD, attended a local reception for Vern Buchanan (R-FL), who serves on an influential health subcommittee in the House of Representatives. A week later, Herb Sohn, MD, jumped at the opportunity to attend a small dinner with former Governor Mitt Romney that benefited Congressman Bob Dold (R-IL), who is fighting to represent a swing district in the suburbs of Chicago.
After a fundraising reception for Congressman Chris Collins (R-NY) in Rochester, NY, Miller Ashman, MD, reported, "[AACU headquarters] prepared me well and everything went smoothly. I received UROPAC's contribution in the mail and [campaign staff] expected me and knew I represented urologists."
The event was worthwhile, according to Dr. Ashman. "I will be able to go to the [Joint Advocacy Conference] next year and the congressman and his staff will recognize me because of this positive interaction," he said.
UROPAC also works closely with members' practices to host successful fundraisers and office visits. Southern California urologist Alec Koo, MD, renewed his relationship with Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA) at an event with Skyline Urology colleagues. The foundation of this connection was laid when Lieu, then a state senator, met with Dr. Koo to discuss legislation that would have essentially prohibited in-office ancillary service referrals.
UROPAC was integral in bringing together diverse sections of the urologic community in metropolitan Minneapolis to support Congressman Erik Paulsen (R-MN), a key figure in the push to repeal the medical device tax. The congressman visited Urology Associates, the practice of Dean Tortorelis, MD, and was able to see firsthand the complexity in delivering coordinated urologic care. Congressman Paulsen now knows that Dr. Tortorelis is the local UROPAC representative.
Dr. Tortorelis relates: "I stressed the commitment the AACU and UROPAC have in relationship building and asked him for continued support" on issues that impact our patients, practice, and profession.
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These are but a few examples of UROPAC activity designed to facilitate relationship building and candidate education.
To demonstrate the importance of physician engagement in socioeconomic matters, look no further than the recently released regulations governing future Medicare payments. In response to providers' vigorous advocacy, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services agreed to a gradual transformation to new reimbursement programs intended to evolve over years to come. In a press conference shedding some light on the 2,400-page document, Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt conceded, "Ultimately, we're not looking to transform the Medicare program in 2017. We're looking to make a long-term program successful."
Without individual physician involvement, it goes without saying that CMS would not have been at least somewhat conciliatory. Urologists can get involved in any number of ways, depending on their interests and availability. UROPAC – Urology's Advocate on Capitol Hill is one of the most effective conduits, thanks in large part, to the connection a single urologist can make with an elected official at political fundraising events.
Dr. Tarantino serves as the chair of UROPAC - Urology's Advocate on Capitol Hill. He is also a past president of the AACU.
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