Over and over, surveys and focus groups reaffirm that AMS members see “advocacy” as the main reason for being a member. It is job #1 for AMS, no doubt … but what does advocacy really mean for you?
For AMS, advocacy comes in different forms. Whether it’s at the courthouse or state department agencies, we’re working on issues that could significantly impact Arkansas physicians and their patients. But what about “legislative” advocacy? The next regular session for the Arkansas General Assembly is scheduled to begin in January 2021, but just because there aren’t laws being passed in 2020 doesn’t mean we stop advocating for physicians. In the interim, AMS works to strengthen our relationships that will benefit us during the next session. AMS has several strong champions in the Legislature, and for this reason, frequent communication via emails, texts, calls and attending committee meetings (which continue year-round) is important in keeping those relationships strong.
While advocacy is a large part of what we do daily, we cannot do it alone. We need AMS members to get involved and build relationships with their legislators, which is the most vital aspect of successful advocacy. We encourage every member to contact their elected officials and candidates – get to know them and offer themselves as a health care resource for the legislators and candidates, many of whom do not have a background in health care. As a constituent, meet them for coffee, help with campaigns, and offer resources that only a subject-matter expert in your field can give.
You may also want to know the most effective strategies to use when talking with your elected officials. The AMA Guide for Physician Advocacy gives a few simple suggestions for talking with your legislator:
- Identify one or two topics of interest and don’t get side-tracked by unrelated issues.
- Use your personal stories, which helps humanize evidence and shares perspectives.
- Connect potential impacts to people, helping legislators connect the dots between law and the people they represent
- Be respectful, honest, and brief.
If you do not know who your elected officials are, AMS can help. Visit ARKMED.org/advocacy to search for your elected officials or call our office. We are here to help facilitate communication, and during campaign season is the best time to contact candidates and offer assistance.
Another way you can personally get involved is by contributing to the next session’s success by joining ArkMed-PAC, the bi-partisan political action committee of AMS. ArkMed-PAC makes contributions to physician-friendly candidates and is an easy way for every AMS member to help elect more physician-friendly candidates. There are many important races coming up in the March 3 primaries, long before the November 3 general election, and those races will be expensive.
During the 2019 session of the Arkansas General Assembly, physician-friendly legislators led the way as the Legislature passed many strong bills that will have a positive impact on Arkansas physicians and their patients. Just a few of the many victories included contracting improvements, easing assignment of benefits, insurance card plan identification simplification, and insurance review networking protections after peer review. Today, those same physician-friendly legislators and candidates need our support. Some of the most important primary races affecting the 2021 General Assembly will be decided in only a few months on Super Tuesday.
More good news … Arkansas law allows up to $50 – $100 tax credit for your PAC contribution ($50 when filing as an individual and $100 when filing jointly) on Arkansas state income taxes. Also, when contributing to ArkMed-PAC, your contributions can come from either a personal (preferred) or business account, up to the annual maximum allowed by Arkansas law of $5,000.
AMS is always fighting for Arkansas physicians and their patients. Get personally involved in our advocacy work today by establishing relationships with your legislators and joining the ArkMed-PAC. Today’s work will fuel tomorrow’s successes.
H. Scott Smith, JD
Director of Governmental Affairs
Arkansas Medical Society