Advocacy in Action

The WAFP political giving programs are a vital part of our advocacy plan. It is crucial for WAFP members to contribute to either the WIFamMedPAC or the Legislative Involvement Fund (LIF) in order to raise our voices at the capitol, ensuring both patients and the practice of Family Medicine are protected.

The purpose of this Advocacy in Action article is to highlight a WAFP member who is actively involved with the WIFamMedPAC and LIF and allows them to explain why they feel compelled to contribute.

Your contributions will ensure that our voices are heard and our patients are protected!

 Contribute to the PAC               Contribute to the LIF 

Steve Bartz, MD - First Vice President, WAFP

Bartz Advocacy in Action

Q) When did you first realize the improtance of participating in the WAFP's political giving programs? 

A) I have always believed in being engaged in the political process both personally and professionally. This is just another manifestation of that belief. Although many of us find the current political funding system of "pay to play" unpalatable, it is the reality of our political culture. We can choose not to participate at the risk of being overshadowed by those that do - and plenty of interested parties try. I hear of many colleagues who complain about the state of family medicine in our medical/economic/political system, but then do not participate in a process to improve our collective lot. Unless we actively participate, our views and concerns will not be advanced.

Q) Are there any recent legislative issues that may afffect the members of the WAFP or ones you would like to see in the future? 

A) I have been particularly concerned about the number of infringements on traditional functions by our non-physician colleagues, including a bill that passed last session expanding scope of practice for physical therapists. 2015 Wisconsin Act 375 allows physical therapists to order x-rays as well as utilize the results to diagnose or refer patients without the necessary training or experience.

In addition, I am especially dismayed by organizations who misrepresent the term "primary care". This past session, chiropractors introduced a bill that would create a new profession, the Primary Spine Care Practitioner (PSCP). The bill would have allowed PSPSs to perform surgeries, receive hospital privileges, and prescribe and administer drugs. This should be concerning to all family physicians and should not be allowed to become state law. However, unless family docs across the state speak out loudly to their state representatives, this proposal has a good chance of passing in the next session.

Q) There may be some who are hesitant to contribute to WIFamMedPAC, what would you say to those members?

A) I recently had a cousin who retired as a state representative. He once told me that he was surprised that the Wisconsin "house of medicine" didn't have a greater voice in the state capitol. This was a direct commentary on the underrepresentation of physicians in our states's medical discourse. Changing this dynamic can only be done by participating in the political process, both with your voice and your dollars. It won't happen if we, as a profession, aren't politically engaged.


 Eric Stader, MD - Treasurer, WAFP

Stader Advocacy in Action

Q) When did you first realize the importance of participating in the WAFP's political giving programs? 

A) At one of my first WAFP Board meetings, as a new Board member, I had the privilege of hearing Tim Hoven articulate the proposed WAFP positions and recommendations about a number of bills in the state Assembly and Senate during that session. He described the process of cultivating cummunication with our elected officials and other members of government, encouraging us to be experts about health care issues and policy for our state representatives and senators. Over the past several years on the Board, and more recently as an officer, I have grown increasingly aware of the importance of advocacy.

Q) Are there any recent legislative issues that may affect the members of the WAFP or ones you would like to see in the future? 

A) Scope of practice and reimbursement issues are realities that no practicing physician can avoid. Even those in large groups or academice settings are not insulated from the reality that although caring for patients is an art, a science, and even a calling, health care is a business. We must advocate for family physicians at any opportunity, giving no ground on scope of practice and promoting the vital and effective role of our fellow family physicians.

Although many physicians supported the Affordable Care Act, we have seen that it is not the solution hoped for by many. Rather, its brokenness and insufficiency underscore the disconnect between the consumer (our patients), the payer (the insurance companies or government), and the product (health care). Lost in the shell game that is reimbursement, relationships between patients and physicians are strained. WAFP and sister organizations need to be vigilant and proactive to support those legislative trends which foster accountability, trust, and personal care while opposing those which further undermine the foundation of excellent health care; the physician/patient relationship.

Q) There may be some who are hesitant to contribute to the WIFamMedPAC, what would you say to those members? 

A) We live in a time of unprecedented technological developments, such that our society is inundated with information, influence, advertising, propoganda, and disctractions. Conversations are supplanted by "virtual" relationships, and the credibility of many claims is in question. Some experts have described fatigue in our culture from the pace and volume of these interactions.

Contributions to our representatives to not "buy votes", so to speak, but they do afford WAFP and others an audience with those legislators. All of us have heard the phrase, "put your money where your mouth is", and I contend that the contemporary application thereof is to contribute dollars to open the door to personal conversations. Rather than the deafening noise of social media, a quiet, meaningful dialogue with our elected officials offers the best opportunity to articulate our positions on behalf of our patients and colleagues. Few interactions affect the human heart and mind more.

As family physicians, we know how to engage our patients in the midst of their situation. Let's learn how to better engage our representatives, civic leaders, and those who guide public policy, and donate to the WIFamMedPAC.


 

Cheri Olson, MD - Director, WAFP

Olson Advocacy in Action

Q) When did you first realize the importance of participating in WAFP's political giving programs? 

A) The longer I am active in medicine, the more I realize how important the social determinants of health are in my role as a change agent in my patient's lives. The structure of our communities is vital to the health of our patients, but that structure of how our patients live and work and obtain healthcare and access services is set by the legislature. I can do a lot to improve my patient's health in my office, but it is important to participate on a larger scale to ensure the long term good health of both individuals and our communities.

We cannot let our legislators decide what to do about topics that are important to our patients and their families without our input! Legislators may not know the breadth and depth of our training as family physicians, but WE KNOW! As family physicians, we need to use our clout to help legislators understand topics that we know intimately. Our clout involves both our message and out money; one doesn't work without the other, and that is why I contribute to WIFamMedPAC

I have seen firsthand both the positive and negative affects public policy can have on my patients and my profession. Over the past decade, the Wisconsin State Legislature has introduced numerous health related bills, including the 2010 primary care loan repayment program which the WAFP supported. Unfortunately, they have also introduced legislation that has threatened Family Physicians, including raiding the injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund and recently, a bill that would allow chiropractors to perform physician level services with little additional education. Luckily, the latter piece of legislation did not pass, but we cannot take any more chances.

I contribute to the WIFamMedPAC to protect my patients, strengthen my community, and guarantee our voices are heard at the state capitol. Together, we have the ability to halt damaging legislation and educate legislators on the true needs of our patients and communities. We have the ability to promote change and contributing to the WIFamMedPAC betters our chances at improving our health care system and safeguarding our practice.

Q) Are there any recent legislative issues that may affect the members of the WAFP or ones you would like to see in the future? 

A) This past December, Governor Walker signed the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact into law. Joining 12 other states, including Illinois, Minnesota, and Iowa, the law will expedite the licensing process for physicians who wish to practice across state lines, increasing the number of providers in our state. 

The WAFP supported this measure throughout the legislative process, registering in favor of the compact during committee hearings and joining a coalition of medical organizations. Together, we were able to assis in the passage of the compact, a law which will increase access to quality health care for our patients. 

Contributions to the WIFamMedPAC gave members of the WAFP the opportunity to raise their voices at the state level and ensure the passage of this important piece of legislation. As we move forward, the legislature will continue to introduce bills that affect the state of health care in Wisconsin and the WAFP will need your help to ensure the safety of our patients is protected.

Q) There may be some who are hesitant to contribute to the WIFamMedPAC, what would you say to those members? 

A) We have one of the best healthcare systems in the nation and in order to protect our patients, we must ensure it thrives. There are over 700 registered organizations, including the WAFP, fighting for their voices to be heard in Madison. Many of these organizations, such as trial lawyers and chiropractors, raise hundres of thousands of dollars each year in an effort to persuade the legislature. This year alone, their voices encouraged the introduction of damaging legislation that would have forced insurance companies to compensate chiropractors as primary care physicians as well as allow them to perform physician level services. Fortunately, these bills did not become law, but they will return. 

Contributing to the WIFamMedPAC will help the WAFP fight back against these organizations and educate legislators on both our profession and how to protect our patients. Iven if you can only contribute $10 or $20, you can make a difference. Our patients depend on us to provide quality care and protect their health, contributing to the WIFamMedPAC is another line of defense against those who wish to harm our practice and the health care system, placing patients at risk. 


 

Tim Hoven - WAFP Government Affairs Advisor

Hoven Advocacy in Action

Q) Why do you believe it is important to donate to the WIFamMedPAC?

A) As the chief lobbyist for the WAFP, I work alongside talented physicians, who have demonstrated not only the importance of family medicine, but the attention and personal care each physician brings to their patients.

However, Family Medicine and the practice of medicine in general, are subject to the whims of the legislative process which are often unpredictable. From the chiropractors who continue their slow creep into the physician scope of practice to the trial attorney's efforts to attack Wisconsin's stable medical liability environment, it's critical for the WAFP to engage in the political process. The future of Family Medicine is vital to our state's citizens and we must protect it from those who threaten to harm the safety of Wisconsin's patients.

This is why I donate to the WIFAMMedPAC.

The WAFP has worked with the legislature to advance and improve family medicine in Wisconsin. Over the past five years, we have assisted in increasing funding for the Wisconsin Rural Physician Residency Assistance pgoram as well as passing the "I'm Sorry" bill, the Primary Care and Psychiatry Shortage Grant bill, the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, and more.

Members from across the WAFP, including every member of the board and myself, recognize the importance of giving to the WAFP's political giving programs. Please join us in making a contribution today to the WIFamMedPAC. Every dollar truly does make a difference in raising our voices at the state capitol and protecting the future of family medicine. 

Q) Are there any recent legislative issues that may affect the members of WAFP? Ones that may encourage them to contribute to the WIFamMedPAC?

A) Each session there are numerous bills introduced that affect the practice of family medicine. Though every bill is important, there are a few that specifically cause concern for the safety of patients in our state. This year, the WAFP fought against many bills including the Primary Spinal Care Practitioner bill, Senate Bill 762.

The chiropractors introduced SB 762 which would create an additional medical specialty known as Primary Spinal Care Practitioners. This bill would have expanded the scope of practice for a new medical profession, allowing chiropractors to prescribe medication, perform medical procedures and obtain hospital privileges while requiring minimal additional training. This bill failed to pass the legislature but is positioned to be back next year.

Donating to the WIFamMedPAC will help deter harmful legislation by better educating legislators on the practice of medicine and patient safety. Your donation can help us stop detrimental legislation, such as the Primary Spinal Care Practitioner bill from becoming law.

Q) There may be some who are hesitant to contribute to the PAC, what would you say to those members? 

A) During this past session, multiple bills were introduce that would have eroded the practice of Family Medicine in Wisconsin, jeopardizing physician licenses and putting patient safety at risk.

Contributing to the PAC is a simple way to ensure a fair fight against those who threaten the practice of Family Medicine. As it stands, the WAFP is at a major disadvantage. In fact, during the 2014 election cycle, the Chiropractors contributed over $280,000 to candidates. The WIFamMedPAC has only raised $3,125 since January 2015. 

If each member donated just $20, we could surpass our goal by over $50,000 and begin to fight back against those who threaten our profession.

The WIFamMedPAC is an important tool of the WAFP in the fight against those who would invade your scope of practice and threaten the safety of patients in Wisconsin. Donating any amount, whehter it be $10, $50, or $500, will work to protect the future of family medicine in our state by ensuring our voices are heard on important issues in Madison. 


 

Alan Schwartzstein, MD - Vice Speaker, AAFP

Schwartzstein Advocacy in Action


Q) When did you first realize the importance of participating in the WAFP's political giving programs? 

A) As I became involved in my community and with the WAFP, I became aware of the frequent efforts that impact my patients and my care for them. Initially, I thought that just responding to surveys and visiting legislators with Hoven Consulting and WAFP staff would convince elected officials to "do the right thing". 

Then I learned how often other groups, who do not always have my patient's best interests in mind (tiral lawyers, chiropractors, specialists and others) go to Madison. What was even more shocking was looking at the amount of money they contribute to legislative campaigns. Many more dollars than we as family doctors.

Then I attended a Doctor Day in Washington and Madison and learned that, while these contributions do not necessarily "buy" votes, they do create access so that I and others can tell the story of family medicine and how much value we provide to our patients and community.

After some soul searching, I decided I had to let go of my idealism to get into my legislator's office and speak on the health of my patients and community. I have contributed to both WIFamMedPAC and the Legislative Involvement Fund (LIF) ever since. 

With the LIF (conduit), I personally determine to which candidate I contribute. With the WIFamMedPAC, the PAC board along with Hoven Consulting determines where the contributions will be directed based upon the best interest of the WAFP and our patients. Just as I respect my specialty colleagues with whom I consult on patients, I trust Hoven Consulting and our government affairs team to understand the political process.

Q) Are there any recent legislative issues that may affect the members of the WAFP or ones that you would like to see in the future? 

A) This past session the legislature introduced and passed SB 293. This bill creates two behavioral health care coordination pilot projects as well as a web-based statewide psychiatric bed tracker. Recognizing the crucial role primary care physicians play in the treatment of mental health, the bill assists providers in improving coordinated care while reducing the overall cost to Medical Assistance recipients.

These pilot projects are vital to the health care system. In order to improve the delivery of care, our government must focus future spending on the creation of team-based medical homes led by family or other primary care physicians.

Q) There may be some who are hesitant to contribute to the WIFamMedPAC, what would you say to those members?

A) Many other organizations, without the best interests of patient care and physicians, speak to elected officials every day encouraging bills that could affect us negatively. These organizations contribute a LOT of money to campaigns. It would be nice to think that this does not affect legislators, but in Madison, as in DC, there is a saying: "if you are not at the table, you are on the menu." Contributing to the PAC does not buy votes, but it does facilitate access to "speak at the table". 

If you will not contribute for yourself, do it for your patients who need the help/better access to care.

Elizabeth Menzel, MD - WAFP Legislative Committee Member

Menzel Advocacy in Action

Q) When did you first realize the importance of participating in the WAFP's political giving programs?

A) As a medical student, I "accidentally" became involved in the Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians and began to learn about the importance of political giving through that experience. After moving back to Wisconsin for residency, it took me some time to get re-acquainted with life beyond nose-to-the-grindstone learning how to be a "real" physician, but I eventually found my way back to the Academy. My first couple of experiences included scholarship opportunities to get more involved with advocacy, where I was again reminded of its importance.

The more practice experience I gain, the more I realize the importance of having a voice in the legislative process to make the future of medicine (particularly Family Medicine) brighter. Unfortunately, without funding, our voice gets muted: big money talks (but we have strength in numbers!). Hence, it is important to me to contribute - even if it's a small amount.

Q) Are there any recent legislative issues that may affect members of the WAFP? Ones that may encourage them to contribute to the WIFamMedPAC?

A) The Heroine, Opiate, Prevention, and Education (HOPE) Agenda includes multiple pieces of legislation that members should be aware of keeping an eye on. While some of the legislation includes upcoming mandates (e.g. prescribers must check the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) with every prescription starting in 2017), the WAFP and other organizations have made it clear that this mandate cannon be put into place without significant changes to the PDMP technology to make it much more user-friendly for physicians and their teams to be able to access the information. We agree that safe opioid prescribing is important for our patients, especially in this opioid epidemic, and that the PDMP can help us achieve that. However, additional burdens on physicians won't help us or our patients - and the legislators need to know that. Contributing to the WIFamMedPAC is an easy way to assure our voice is heard in this regard.

Q) There may be some who are hesitant to contribute to the PAC, what would you say to those members? 

A) While we're all busy working the trenches, there are other forces at play working on legislation that can seriously impact the way that we are able to practice now and in the future. If we don't become informed and make our voices heard, the trenches will only get deeper. We can't afford to let them get so deep that they cave in. Sometimes there is legislation put forth that intentionally changes the way we can or cannot practice. However, sometimes the biggest changes are unintended consequences. It is us and our patients who will be affected most whether our voice is heard or not. The PAC can give us a voice so we're working together to avoid the trenches caving in!

Q) Is there a piece of legislation you would like the legislature to discuss or a current bill you would like to see passed? 

A) As I mentioned above, the HOPE agenda is of interest to me. This is for multiple reasons: it's relevant for nearly all Family Physicians in our state, it is specifically relevant for quite a number of my patients, and I have lost people I know personally to this epidemic. The HOPE agenda has bipartisan support and has multiple associated pieces of legislation worth keeping an eye on. More details can be found here. Supporting the WIFamMedPAC can help assure that our voice is heard to make sure that the implementation makes sense for the way we work every day. I would encourage even small donations from each of our members - the more we band together, the more effective we can be! 


Mark Thompson, MD - WAFP Board Chair

 
Thompson Advocacy in Action

 

Q) When did you first realize the importance of Participating in the WAFP's political giving programs?

A) I learned very early in my career that politics and government regulations have a huge impact on the practice of medicine - in both a positive and negative way. One event that truly opened my eyes to the importance of the WAFP's political giving programs occurred about a decade ago. The legislature and the governor at the time raided the Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund, draining $200 million. Not only was it illegal for the state to take the money, but it was a significant blow to Wisconsin's medical liability climate.

Since that event, I learned quickly that in order to best serve my patients, I needed to be more than a good clinical physician. I needed to understand and participate in the political process to help influence health care policies being developed by legislators and regulators. I am now a strong advocate for the WIFamMedPAC as well as the LIF conduit fund.

Q) Are there any recent legislative issues that may affect members of the WAFP? Ones that may encourage them to contribute to the WIFamMedPAC?

A) Without question ... Legislators are constantly working on legislation that impacts Family Medicine and the care we provide to our patients. In fact, there have been numerous bills proposed over the past few years that attempted to regulate medicine or interfere in the patient-physician relationship. Some would even create severe felony penalties for physicians that don't comply.

This year alone, bills interfering and breaking down the physician-patient relationship, redefining the role of a primary care physician, and allowing undertrained medical professionals, such as chiropractors, to practice within a physician's scope of practice were debated. The WAFP lobbied against these as well as other bills introduced during session.

Q) There may be some who are hesitant to contribute to the PAC, what would you say those members?

A) The State Capitol is constantly teeming with legislation that could impact the practice of medicine. As Family Medicine Physicians, we do not have the luxury of standing on the sidelines. I understand our members are extremely busy, but fortunately, contributing to the WIFamMedPAC is simple and only takes a few minutes. It really is the easiest way for our members to engage in the political process and make a difference.

Q) Is there a piece of legislation you would like the legislature to discuss or a current bill you would like to see passed?

A) I am glad you asked. The answer is a resounding yes. The WAFP's political giving programs allow the Academy to support candidates that share our values and understand the need to create a regulatory environment that allows physicians to best serve their patients. Once elected, those candidates bring their values, beliefs and ideas to the legislature. The WAFP lobbied on behalf of multiple bills that would improve the practice of family medicine and the delivery of patient care. One in particular promoted compensation for care coordination and encouraged the integration of physical and behavioral health care. The bill would increase access to mental health care and work to reform the conventional health care payment model - a true step in the right direction. I am happy to say this bill was recently signed into law.

The WIFamMedPAC allows us to build strong relationships with like-minded legislators and help us make sure they remain in office to continue their important work, such as the bill I mentioned above. With that said, I would simply like to encourage all WAFP members to contribute to the WIFamMedPAC.

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