The American College of Surgeons (ACS) Chapter Lobby Day Grant Program began in 2010 and continues to provide chapters with the support they need to engage their membership in grassroots advocacy at the state level. Participating chapters are eligible to receive up to $5,000 in grant funds from the College and are required to match every $2 received. Participation has been wide-ranging, with more than 20 chapters hosting a state lobby day since the inception of the program.
Lobby day events help raise the profile of chapters in their respective states and educate state legislators on matters of importance to surgeons. Issues discussed at lobby days in 2014 ranged from trauma funding, to scope of practice, to telemedicine. In addition, these meetings enable chapters to build relationships—perhaps the most critical component of grassroots advocacy—with legislators, members of the judicial branch, and other health policy stakeholders.
This article summarizes the 2014 ACS chapter lobby days, provides an overview of current advocacy issues in each state, and highlights how some chapters organize their day at the state capitol program.
The Alabama Chapter of the ACS hosted its lobby day on February 20 in conjunction with the Medical Association of the State of Alabama. The event began in the morning with breakfast and training across the street from the state capitol. Attendees heard from political pundit and former Alabama state legislator Steve Flowers (R) on lobbying and politics and received tips on effective advocacy from David Mowery of the Mowery Consulting Group. Participants then attended a hearing of the Senate Committee on Health and participated in a working lunch where a question-and-answer session was held with state Sen. Greg Reed (R) and state Rep. Jim McClendon (R). The afternoon was spent meeting with legislators, during which surgeon attendees focused their discussion on the statewide trauma system, trauma care, and funding. The legislators were receptive to the issues and expressed an interest in working with the surgeons and maintaining contact. The surgeons met with a total of 15 legislators.
The Connecticut Chapter of the ACS, in conjunction with the Connecticut State Medical Society, sponsored a lobby day in Hartford on March 20. Several ACS Fellows attended and advocated on current legislation, including bills pertaining to scope-of-practice expansion for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) and the establishment of a legislative definition of surgery. The day began with a breakfast reception for legislators and staff that was attended by members of both political parties. Following the reception, the group listened to remarks from a Connecticut State Medical Society lobbyist and transitioned into meetings with individual legislators. Chapter leadership attended meetings with Donald Williams, Jr. (D), President pro tempore of the Senate, and Brendan Sharkey (D), Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The Florida Chapter of the ACS hosted its White Coat Wednesday in March. The event coincided with the State Committee on Trauma meeting and drew nearly 20 participants. The event began with a dinner on March 4 that included a presentation from Chris Nuland, Chapter Lobbyist, who updated attendees on the current composition of the Florida legislature and provided background on the key health care legislation that would be discussed in their meetings. White Coat Wednesday kicked off with a breakfast reception that provided an opportunity for attendees to interact with their legislators in a less formal manner. Participants then headed over to the state capitol where they met with their legislators. The main topics covered in these meetings included licensing issues related to telemedicine and scope of practice.
The Indiana Chapter of the ACS hosted its annual Day at the Capitol on January 27. The event began with a series of speakers in the morning, including Rep. Ed DeLaney (D) who described how to be an effective advocate in the Indiana legislature. Other topics included a review of the current legislative issues by Michael Rinebold, a lobbyist from the Indiana State Medical Association; a review of the challenges to Indiana’s medical liability damages cap from consultants Libby Goodknight and Krieg DeVault; a review of the status of Indiana politics by T.K. Wall, a local reporter; and an overview of how to successfully interact with elected officials from Tory Castor, vice-president of government affairs at Indiana University Health. The group discussed the following bills in their meetings with their legislators: S.B. 222, Student Athlete Concussions; S.B. 50, Minors and Tanning Devices; and H.B. 1097, Immunity for Providing Volunteer Health Care Services.
The Day at the Capitol was well attended, with more than 20 surgeons meeting with their legislators.
The Kansas Chapter of the ACS, in conjunction with the Kansas Medical Society, hosted a state lobby day in Topeka on January 22. The event included in-depth briefings on state and federal advocacy, the current legislative environment in Kansas, and medical liability. In addition to the briefings, several legislators attended the meeting with the goal of speaking with attendees, including Robert P. Moser, MD, Secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, and legislators who serve on the Senate Public Health Committee, and the House Health and Welfare Committee. After the briefings, members met with their state legislators and voiced their views on scope-of-practice expansion legislation for APRNs and podiatrists, tanning bed restrictions, and medical liability rate increases. The tanning legislation, banning use by people younger than 18 years old, was heavily advocated for by Joshua Mammen, MD, FACS. Dr. Mammen worked with his local legislator to get this bill introduced in the state House of Representatives. The bill did not pass, but thanks to Dr. Mammen’s advocacy, the groundwork has been set for the bill to be re-introduced in 2015.
Brooklyn-Long Island and New York
The New York Chapters of the ACS, Brooklyn-Long Island and New York, in conjunction with the New York State Medical Society and several other state specialty organizations, hosted a lobby day in Albany on May 20. The event included various legislative and advocacy presentations, followed by meetings with legislators. Fellows lobbied against allied health scope-of-practice expansion and medical liability rate increases, and for truth-in-advertising legislation.
The Tennessee Chapter hosted its lobby day at the capitol in Nashville on March 12 in conjunction with the Tennessee Medical Association. More than 200 physicians attended the event, with surgery well-represented by the chapter. Participants attended a meeting of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee and heard from Gov. Bill Haslam (R), who welcomed them to the Capitol and encouraged attendees to remain involved in the advocacy process. Meetings with legislators were held throughout the day, and the chapter’s participants focused their discussions on the work of the Tennessee Surgical Quality Collaborative (TSQC) and on the initiatives of the medical association. Surgeons had the opportunity to meet with all members of the House and Senate Health Committees, who reportedly found the work of the TSQC impressive.
The Virginia Chapter of the ACS, in conjunction with several other surgical medical societies, hosted a lobby day in Richmond on February 12. The day began with a briefing and an advocacy presentation from one of the lobbyists for the Medical Society of Virginia. After the briefing, Fellows headed to the capitol for meetings with their state legislators. These meetings were productive and covered a variety of legislative topics, including Medicaid expansion, various scope-of-practice issues, and cancer prevention and treatment.
The Washington Chapter participated in its first lobby day on February 10 by having an organized presence at the Washington State Medical Association’s (WSMA) Annual Legislative Summit. Beginning with a chapter council meeting the evening before the lobby day, leadership of the chapter had the opportunity to share in policy briefings with their WSMA colleagues, receive helpful tips for meeting with state legislators, and enjoy the political camaraderie of a lobby day. Priority issues included:
- Legislation addressing notification concerns regarding the 90-day grace period for patients who fall behind on their health insurance premiums, which became law March 27
- Requirements that insurers that cover a clinical service on a face-to-face basis must also cover the same service when it is provided using video technology; that bill died in the Senate
- Prohibition of the use of tanning devices by children and teens under age 18, which became law March 27
- Expansion of the list of tests a medical assistant phlebotomist may perform, which became law March 28
Most state legislatures have finished their legislative business for the year, and lawmakers have shifted their focus to re-election efforts and the 2015 legislative sessions. At this time, it is imperative that chapters begin to plan for the upcoming sessions by creating an advocacy strategy. The lobby day program is one of the best tools that the ACS offers, and the State Affairs team is available to assist with planning a lobby day or helping chapters with other grassroots advocacy initiatives. Contact the State Affairs team at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or concerns.