AAOS Bulletin - August, 2006

Orthopaedic PAC aims high

Goal is to increase participation for 2006 election cycle

By E. Anthony Rankin, MD, and Robert H. Haralson III, MD, MBA

The American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons Political Action Committee (Orthopaedic PAC) currently ranks as the leading specialty physician PAC. While that’s good news, it’s not good enough—particularly when you consider that the American Trial Lawyers Association PAC raised nearly three times as much money as the Orthopaedic PAC did last year.

The Orthopaedic PAC raised more than $1.2 million in 2005: $900,208 in “hard” dollars (which are given by individuals and can be used to directly support political campaigns) and $346,084 in “soft” dollars (which are given by corporations and cannot be used to directly support campaigns but can be used for other purposes). From January through May 2006, the PAC received an additional $626,196 in “hard” dollars. But only about one in five AAOS members made a contribution to the PAC.

In a year when the U.S. Senate still doesn’t have enough votes to force consideration of medical liability reform, when the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is anticipating cuts in reimbursements and when the U.S. House is proposing funding cuts for musculoskeletal research, the need for orthopaedic surgeons to support the Orthopaedic PAC should be evident.

What is a PAC?

A PAC enables employees or members of groups—such as corporations and professional organizations—to pool their political contributions and support candidates who will help the organization achieve its legislative objectives. The Orthopaedic PAC is the only national political action committee representing orthopaedic surgeons before Congress.

The Orthopaedic PAC has three major objectives, as follows:

• To promote working relationships between orthopaedic surgeons and their representatives in Congress

• To encourage participation of the orthopaedic community in the political process

• To establish an effective and powerful grassroots network of orthopaedic surgeons who are dedicated to advancing their legislative agenda in Washington, D.C.

The Orthopaedic PAC is nonpartisan, contributing to Democrats, Republicans and other party groups who share and support the views of the orthopaedic community. The Orthopaedic PAC supports candidates who understand the importance of the physician-patient relationship, believe that musculoskeletal research must be adequately funded and support lessening the regulatory burden placed on orthopaedic surgeons.

The Orthopaedic PAC also acts as a facilitator, creating opportunities for orthopaedic surgeons to interact with their U.S. Senators and Representatives. “Because decisions made at the Federal level have a significant impact upon the future for practicing orthopaedic surgeons, increased involvement in the legislative process is essential,” said Paul C. Collins, MD, past chairman of the Orthopaedic PAC.

Plans for the PAC

In 2005, the Orthopaedic PAC took a conservative stance, limiting spending so that it could make larger and greater contributions during the 2006 election year. In all, the Orthopaedic PAC hosted 17 fund raisers in 15 different states. It made $195,500 in total contributions to 78 different House races, and contributed a total of $85,000 in 21 different Senate races. It also supported party PACs with contributions totaling $162,500. During this non-election year, the Orthopaedic PAC provided $100,500 in support of Democratic candidates and $342,600 in support of Republican candidates.

Under the new leadership of Stuart L. Weinstein, MD, the Orthopaedic PAC plans to drastically increase spending in 2006 to maintain Congressional member support of the orthopaedic community in office and elect new prophysician candidates. Plans include increasing the number of PAC presentations at state society meetings, holding fund raisers with orthopaedic specialty and other medical specialty societies, expanding local level participation and improving the key-contact program.

A national campaign to increase participation in the Orthopaedic PAC is also underway. The goal is to increase participation to 30 percent of AAOS membership.

“I think it’s important for members to contribute to the Orthopaedic PAC,” said Ramon L. Jimenez, MD, a current contributor. “It shows support for the organization, and enables us to obtain access to legislators who will listen to our concerns and act on our behalf.”

With the influx of special interest groups in Washington, D.C., it is becoming more difficult to be heard. The Orthopaedic PAC helps keep an open line of communication between the orthopaedic community and members of Congress. For more information, visit the Orthopaedic PAC Web site.

E. Anthony Rankin, MD, is AAOS second vice president. Robert H. Haralson III, MD, MBA, is AAOS medical director.

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