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Get Involved in Healthcare Reform


Congress is still debating healthcare reform. It’s not too late to make sure your voice is heard.

Decisions about the future of healthcare are being made at the state level and in Washington, and various pieces of legislation are being enacted that concern both the business of medicine and the autonomy and quality of the medical care you provide. The only way to ensure that your interests are adequately represented - whatever they may be - is to join the dialogue and have your say. Without physicians fully contributing to reform, it will be left to policy makers and profit creators to determine the future of medicine.

Many physicians say they lack the time or enthusiasm to get involved in the reform process. However, unlike the last time reform came around in the early 1990s, technology has made it possible to stay current and informed, in real time and without effort, on various reform proposals being developed by physicians’ organizations, employers, citizens’ groups, and private insurance companies, as well as the state and federal government. For example, registered subscribers to the American Medical Association Physicians’ Grassroots Network campaign are kept updated via e-mail alerts as events occur.

Nevertheless, educating yourself on the issues is only one part of getting involved. Providing feedback is the key to making your voice heard and representing your interests.

So how can you get involved?

1. Many associations are offering discussion forums and feedback loops for members:

  • AMA Physicians’ Grassroots Network - membership is open to all physicians regardless of AMA membership status and provides a way to receive timely updates, contact Congress, and help make a difference in the outcome of legislation.

  • The Department of Federal Affairs, the American Academy of Pediatrics’ advocacy division, is the Academy’s link to federal legislative activities in Washington, D.C., and provides resources and information.

  • The American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Physicians, and the American Osteopathic Association have come together to help ensure that issues in primary care are heard on Capitol Hill.

  • Local chapters across various associations are also joining the debate and organizing at the local level to make sure that regional interests are taken into consideration. Some are holding town hall meetings that may be in your area.

2. Stay current on the issues:

  • Many publications are carrying a variety of stories, from clinical bellwethers such as the New England Journal of Medicine to daily newspapers like The New York Times and Washington Post, reporting on policy and the business of medicine, so there are plenty of opportunities to understand the issues from a variety of perspectives.

3. Write letters and get your point across:

  • For example, The New York Times runs multiple health-related stories daily. Writing a letter to the editor in response is a good way to get your ideas in front of a very large audience.

  • Let your elected officials know that you expect them to represent your interests, and not just those of powerful lobbyists.

Physician interests cannot be adequately represented unless physicians themselves take the time to educate other entities about the issues that affect them. Powerful interests will be more likely to sit up and take notice when many physician voices begin to speak up.

Susanne Madden is founder and CEO of The Verden Group, a consulting firm that helps physicians handle the complexity and volume of change in managed care today. She can be reached at mailto:madden@theverdengroup.com or by visiting www.theverdengroup.com.

This article originally appeared in the September 2009 issue of Physicians Practice.

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