State rep: Political stage needs DO voices
Physicians: If you’ve ever fostered political dreams, this is the perfect time to act on them. This was the message Republican Keith J. Frederick, DO, a member of the Missouri House of Representatives, brought on Saturday to the AOA’s annual Advocacy for Healthy Partnerships conference in Phoenix.
“All the influences that are at work right now are urgently important to us as the environment we’re going to be practicing in is going to be in big-time change,” he said. “So I really encourage folks to consider running.”
Physicians should take advantage of the opportunity to shape the implementation of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) where they live, Dr. Frederick said at the conference, where leaders in the osteopathic medical profession discuss strategies and ideas.
Why state laws matter
Although some consider state office to be “small change,” state laws have profound effects on the daily lives of their citizens, Dr. Frederick said.
“Most of our professions are regulated at the state level,” he said. “I’m sure you folks have been to your state Capitol and testified on various bills. You know that they have a lot of influence on medicine and law and a lot of other professions.”
Dr. Frederick has been a state representative for Missouri since 2011. In the last term, he sponsored bills on a state prescription drug monitoring program, the scope of practice for physician assistants and the licensure of hospitals.
Specific hot-button issues that physicians can get involved in at the state level include prescription drug monitoring plans, the move to make pseudoephedrine products prescription-only and the privacy of electronic health records, Dr. Frederick said. DOs can offer valuable insights even if they don’t run for office, he said. He also offered attendees tips on how to participate from the sidelines.
“If you can’t run, I would encourage you to get involved with the senator and the representative in your area,” he said. “Really get them to know you on a first-name basis.”
One way to do this is to help out with candidates’ campaigns, Dr. Frederick said, but hosting fund-raisers also works well.
“You can bring in all your doctor friends and you can raise some money for them,” he said. “And they really respond to that because [candidates] are for the most part working on a shoestring.”
‘Go on cable’
Conference attendee J.D. Polk, DO, the principal deputy assistant secretary for the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Health Affairs, said he appreciated the calls for advocacy and involvement in a changing health care environment.
“Very often, we wait until a crisis occurs before we educate our legislators, especially on the issues and distinct advantages of osteopathic medicine,” he said. “However, the opportunity and necessity of marketing our profession and its unique impact on primary care has never been greater than right now.”
Physicians also have the opportunity now to share their knowledge of the ACA with others, said political commentator Donna Brazile, who spoke at the conference on Friday.
“There’s a saying, ‘Physician, heal thyself,’ ” she said. “In the case of Obamacare, it should be, ‘Physician, educate yourself and educate others.’ That way, you can not only educate others and help with implementation of this law, but also have an impact on the ongoing dialogue.
“I come from the old school of activism, community activism. It’s important to be available to the community, and in this case, that means being available to the media, to policymakers. Go on cable, they’re always looking for experts. They’re always looking for insights. No one knows health care better than you, and it’s time that your voices are in this dialogue and this debate.”