National osteopathic advocacy—the AOA arena for reform
Many leaders of the osteopathic medical profession converged on the U.S. Capitol in early March to tell their members of Congress how the major issues affecting health care bear upon the physicians and patients who are their constituents. On behalf of the medical community as a whole, these DOs, osteopathic medical students and friends of the profession advocated for a better health care system. With the fate of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 still unresolved, what better time could there be for our physicians to descend on the nation’s capital? Our advocacy is needed now more than ever.
Regardless of your take on the Affordable Care Act, we can all agree that our health care system needs improvement: Physicians need fair payment; graduate medical education capacity must be expanded and protected; costs must be lowered; quality must be ensured; and patients’ deserved access to care must be enhanced and preserved. How we accomplish these goals is still being debated. But individual advocates of the osteopathic medical profession—such as the DOs and students in their white coats who stormed the Hill on March 8—are the key to ensuring that the AOA has a seat at the health policy table.
Largest advocacy event
The AOA’s annual DO Day on Capitol Hill is our largest advocacy event (and among the largest of any physician organization), giving osteopathic physicians and medical students the chance to meet directly with their elected officials to champion their own and the profession’s priorities. Representing 45 states and 30 campuses, the 1,100 DOs and students who attended this year’s event told their lawmakers that we must expand the physician workforce, ensure adequate funding for GME, and reform medical liability laws. Pressing for several pieces of legislation, these advocates, as constituents, held the attention of their senators and representatives.
Bookending DO Day, the AOA Bureau on State Government Affairs and the AOA Bureau on Federal Health Programs respectively convened to review recent state and federal legislation and AOA policies on major health care initiatives. The volunteers serving on these bodies shape the AOA’s advocacy strategies, making sure that we tout legislation and regulations that align with AOA policies.
These events could not have been more timely, as we have just passed the two-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law on March 23, 2010, while the U.S. Supreme Court hearings on the law’s constitutionality began on March 26.
What do you think of the Affordable Care Act? The AOA’s Grassroots Osteopathic Advocacy Link (GOAL) gives all DOs the opportunity to talk to their elected officials about the impact of existing and pending legislation on their practices and their patients. Join GOAL and become a grassroots advocate yourself!
The AOA’s advocacy initiatives now have a new “home” in Washington, D.C., with the official opening of the National Osteopathic Advocacy Center (NOAC), which culminates the AOA Greatness Campaign. Financed by the AOA’s Greatness Fund, the NOAC serves as an incubator and launchpad for AOA efforts emphasizing our three top priorities: Strengthening public education and advocacy, expanding GME opportunities, and securing funding to support osteopathic medical research.
Moreover, the NOAC provides expansive, impressive office space in a prominent location in Washington, thanks to the support of many osteopathic family members who secured naming rights within the building. One is Paul A. Martin, DO, the newly elected president of the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians, who financed the Visiting Physician’s Office so that DOs who come to the nation’s capital can use the NOAC as their home away from home. Such professionwide support epitomizes the teamwork we must use to effect change in health care.
One by one
Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, our nation’s 26th president, once said that “the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena … who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” So, too, the entire osteopathic medical profession owes much to the 1,100 DOs and students who came to Washington for DO Day, to those who serve on our policymaking bodies, and to those who supported the Greatness Fund and its progeny, the NOAC.
While it is critical to reinforce the AOA’s presence and clout in Washington, the real power comes from each DO who is willing to get in the arena as a grassroots advocate for the profession. Grassroots advocacy—one constituent talking to one elected official—can plant the seeds that lead to reform. We can DO it!