In case you have been hiding out in a cave recently, you might have missed that the 2016 (yes, “sixteen”) elections are already heating up. Something about another debate on CNN right now as I write this. Jokes aside, this yet again brings up the issue of advocacy, one of Ohio ACEP's three strategic pillars. If you didn't know, we have an Ohio ACEP Political Action Committee (PAC) that we can use to back candidates for state office who are supportive of Emergency Medicine issues throughout Ohio. As many of you read this, perhaps some of you are already shaking your head in disgust about "politics as usual." Admittedly, I too used to feel this way. I didn't like that donating money to candidates, PAC, or a particular party could potentially influence our government.
I felt this way until I became involved with Ohio ACEP. I have attended both our state advocacy day—the Ohio Emergency Medicine Leadership Forum—In Columbus and national ACEP's Leadership and Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C. Unless we support candidates that understand and fight for our issues—specifically those in House and Senate Leadership and candidates for the Ohio Supreme Court—our priorities will never be introduced as legislation, let alone make it out of committee and voted into law. PAC contributions don’t “buy” legislation or legislators, but they do provide us with opportunities to have conversations with policy makers in a more informal setting. And the contributions are also an important way to help favorable legislators retain their elected positions.
This week I attended political events in Columbus on behalf of the Chapter with contributions from Ohio ACEP PAC. The first event was for current Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, the Honorable Maureen O'Connor. Without her efforts on the Court, many of the liability reforms that have been so successful in Ohio could have been overturned by a less favorable Ohio Supreme Court. And, yes, she is running for re-election. Additionally, two other judges were present, the Honorable Pat DeWine and the Honorable Patrick Fischer. I wouldn’t be surprised to see these “Pats” on the ballot next year as well.
Perhaps more importantly, I was able to speak with other members of the General Assembly that have introduced and supported Ohio ACEP initiatives in the past, most notably our EMTALA-related care liability reform and "no fault" early disclosure liability reform. Now certainly a two-minute conversation in a crowded reception room does not a new law make. However, it provided me the opportunity to reconnect with a Representative I had spoken to in April at our Ohio EM Leadership Forum. We were able to discuss a new version of his liability reform bill. He will be much more likely to remember both of these brief interactions when we meet again in two weeks at an Ohio ACEP PAC fundraiser that he and other General Assembly leadership will attend, and we will have their attention. It is only through repeated, personal interactions that we can hope to affect meaningful change.
As one of my ACEP mentors told me, if you're not involved—and yes, that means donating your money to candidates and PACs—then you're not allowed to complain when other people and organizations successfully advocate for bills that tell you how to practice medicine.
Michael McCrea, MD, FACEP
President, Ohio ACEP