Spotlight on policy

Osteopathic physicians secure greater visibility on Capitol Hill

The osteopathic perspective on health policy issues in Washington and state legislatures has become more sought-after than ever.

On Capitol Hill and in state legislatures across the country, policymakers are increasingly seeking a fresh perspective on health care issues. They’re reaching out to the AOA’s policy office to learn what osteopathic physicians—experts in whole-patient care—think about veterans’ health care, the opioid epidemic and community health centers.

“We’re starting to see more osteopathic physicians included in health policy discussions,” says AOA Trustee Joseph Giaimo, DO. “People are asking for the osteopathic opinion.”

In November, Dr. Giaimo was 1 of 6 panelists asked to speak at a White House briefing on the Affordable Care Act. He shared some of the distinct ways osteopathic physicians are participating in the effort to enroll more Americans in health insurance plans.

“Osteopathic physicians are uniquely suited to work with newly insured patients, including those who are underserved,” he says, referencing the profession’s emphasis on primary care and demonstrated efforts to expand health care in rural areas.

A strategic focus

The AOA has taken steps to secure increased visibility of DOs in the nation’s capitol. One change that has had a significant impact is the decision to unify state and federal activities and identify six strategic priority areas:

  • Patient-centered care.
  • Prevention and wellness.
  • Workforce, including graduate medical education.
  • Physician practices as small businesses.
  • Special populations, such as veterans and residents in rural areas.
  • Care delivery models and delivery system reform.

“We’ve been able to talk about how we’re distinct in these areas, which has opened up opportunities for us because we bring a different voice to the table,” says Ray Quintero, the AOA’s senior vice president of public policy.

Identifying those DO voices has been an important component of the AOA’s success in raising the profile of osteopathic medicine among policymakers, according to Quintero.

“We’re seeking more engagement from our members,” he says. “We’re bringing them to Washington for opportunities like Hill briefings and federal panel nominations.”

AOA Trustee Geraldine O'Shea, DO (center), testifies for the House Energy and Commerce Committee. (Photo provided by Laura Wooster)

Important wins

SGR: Medicare’s sustainable growth rate was repealed in April following more than a decade of advocacy by the AOA. Bolstering these efforts, AOA Trustee Geraldine O’Shea, DO, testified last January at a hearing on SGR before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Veterans Affairs: Last year, the AOA began looking for ways to partner with VA secretary Robert McDonald, who spoke at DO Day 2015. Following that event, McDonald has become a strong advocate for the osteopathic profession, even testifying before Congress that he wants more DOs in the VA.

Also, earlier this year, Joyce Johnson, DO, was nominated by President Barack Obama to serve on the Veterans Commission on Care. The commission will release a report in the spring detailing recommendations on how the VA health care system should be reformed.

Efforts to control the prescription drug abuse epidemic: In October, the AOA partnered with HHS to identify five key goals to help health care professionals address the growing epidemic. This effort culminated in the AOA’s participation in a West Virginia event during which President Obama and HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell spoke about the administration’s initiative on prescription drug abuse. Margaret Kotz, DO, represented the AOA at the event and spoke with President Obama about the osteopathic perspective on the issue.

The AOA has also partnered with several health care groups to develop ways to educate physicians and pharmacists about reducing prescription drug misuse.

At the state level, Nick Schilligo, the AOA’s associate vice president of state government affairs, has worked to educate osteopathic state affiliate organizations on the issue and help them understand the need to lead this effort in their states.

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