AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 28, Number 4, 2019


Capitol Hill Toolkit – A Guide to Successful Advocacy

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Congress shall make no law… abridging the… right of the people… to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. (U.S. Const. amend. I)

Actively taking part in the political life of our country is a right and privilege exercised by too few Americans. Special training and expertise in neurosurgery uniquely qualifies you to contribute to the development of federal policies and programs, as well as sharp political attitudes toward neurosurgery.

Members of Congress receive millions of letters, emails and phone calls every year. And, believe it or not, they really do want to hear from their constituents.

What is advocacy?

  • Building relationships with Members of Congress.
  • Identifying issues with research and analysis.
  • Lobbying/advocating for/ against legislation.

Advocacy can be any or all of the above. It can be a simple “drop in” to your member of Congress’s office or as complex as providing detailed analysis as to how a piece of legislation could negatively impact your practice or your patient’s access to care. Any activity that supports an idea or cause is advocacy, including lobbying a bill, relationship building and educating legislators and the public.

Become an Effective Advocate

The first step is preparation;

  • Who to contact.
  • When to act.
  • How to craft your message.

Lucky for you, the AANS/CNS Washington Office has made this easy by developing a Capitol Hill Toolkit to provide you with advocacy tools to ensure a successful meeting with your member of Congress and/or their legislative staff. This guidance also applies to interactions with state/local politicians. Members of Congress and their staff want to understand the effects of the issues that are important to their constituents and their patients, and no one can convey health care information better than a neurosurgeon from their district or state.

Organized neurosurgery and its advocates have played a fundamental role in a number of health policy developments, including repealing the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), pushing for common sense medical-liability reform, advocating for fair reimbursement, streamlining quality-improvement initiatives and ensuring the preeminence of quality in neurosurgical education and training. You can also play an important role in advocacy by relating your experiences and concerns to the Washington Office — if they are not aware of your issues,  they cannot work on your behalf.

These developments are also due in large part to NeurosurgeryPAC, the political action committee of the AANS. NeurosurgeryPAC’s mission is simple: support candidates for federal office who support neurosurgeons. NeurosurgeryPAC does this by making direct campaign contributions to candidates for the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, who are supportive of the issues important to neurosurgery. NeurosurgeryPAC is nonpartisan and does not base its decisions on party affiliation, but instead focuses on the voting records and campaign pledges of the candidates.

As you can see, there are many pieces that make up the advocacy puzzle, but they all are critical to protect the ability of neurosurgeons to practice medicine freely, promote the highest quality of patient care and to create a system that offers greater value tomorrow than it does today. Getting involved is easy and important!

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