The current public policy challenges facing our nation are extremely complex. Elected officials depend on hearing from their constituents and issue experts to help educate them about important health care topics pertaining to the surgical community. As both constituents and subject matter experts, surgeons play a critical role in the process by providing essential, experiential knowledge to lawmakers and their staff to help improve informed decision making and resolve policy differences. Thus, congressional work periods provide an optimal opportunity for surgeons to play a key role in policymaking by informing elected officials about issues that impact surgeons and surgical patients within their districts.
Recognizing the value of in-district meetings, the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Division of Advocacy and Health Policy (DAHP) established the Advocate at Home Program. The purpose of establishing this activity was to expand Fellow engagement in the ACS grassroots advocacy program while also developing relationships with federal legislators to raise the profile of issues and effect change.
Since the 2019 program launched in August, 31 Fellows from 25 congressional districts across the country have volunteered to participate in the program. By mid-September, more than 80 percent of meetings occurred or were scheduled with members of Congress or their health care staff to educate them about several important legislative initiatives that affect surgeons, surgical patients, and surgical care, including the following:
- Surprise/unanticipated medical billing
- Inaccurate measurement of surgical quality
- Improving the prior authorization (PA) process
- Providing access to Stop the Bleed training
For many participants, these were familiar federal legislative priorities—an extension of those covered at the 2019 ACS Leadership and Advocacy Summit. Additionally, surprise/unanticipated medical billing and PA are issues that Congress is expected to address this fall. The ACS Advocate at Home Program offers Fellows and Resident Members the opportunity to discuss these issues directly with decision makers. Strong advocate participation is the key to ensuring that members of Congress fully comprehend the scope and potential impact of health care policies on surgical care.
Staff in the ACS DAHP facilitates ACS advocacy efforts like the Advocate at Home Program by providing resources and discussion topics for surgeons to engage their members of Congress. Post-meeting assessments have been extremely encouraging, with participants stating that duration, substance, and policymaker interactions were positive, thus demonstrating the importance of advocating for surgery outside of Washington, DC.
The success and further expansion of this program is a DAHP priority. All Fellows are encouraged to watch for next year’s registration invitation to participate in the 2020 Advocate at Home Program.
For questions on ACS federal legislative priorities or advocacy opportunities available to surgeon advocates throughout the year, contact the ACS DAHP at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-337-2701. Take action now by visiting the SurgeonsVoice Action Center.