PAs and Advocacy: The Power of the Individual

2018 promises to be a big year for PAs – a year of powerful change and growth for the profession, and also a real opportunity to enact key legislative priorities that can have an impact for decades to come.  As AAPA’s advocacy team has said before, it is critically important for individual PAs to be involved in creating change for the profession, whether it’s through grassroots advocacy, contributing to PA PAC, or even renewing your AAPA membership. These actions can have a huge impact on the success of our federal advocacy efforts. However, individual PAs often wonder just how big an impact they alone can make.

PA PAC:  One of the easiest ways PAs can get involved is to contribute to AAPA’s political action committee, PA PAC. The only federal healthcare PAC dedicated to advancing the PA profession, PA PAC supports the election and re-election of current Congressional leaders and candidates for Congress who are champions for PAs and who embrace and promote the inclusion of PAs in healthcare policy. PA PAC provides an opportunity for PAs across the nation to elevate and amplify the profession’s message and voice on Capitol Hill. Support from individual PAs – no matter how large or how small – can help AAPA ensure that our champions remain in Congress.

California PA Jeremy Adler, PA-C, DFAAPA, says that he contributes to PA PAC because it has the potential to improve his ability to practice. “Every day we use our PA professional services to improve the lives of patients, but so much of our ability to practice is influenced directly by lawmakers, policymakers, and others. To make good policy decisions, these individuals need to be well educated about the PA profession” he says.

And while large contributions to PA PAC are certainly appreciated, it is the many, many small gifts from PAs across the country that add up and make the PAC what it has grown to today.  In fact, in 2016, the average gift size was $48.  If every member PA contributed just $35, PA PAC would be the largest healthcare PAC in the country.  It is true that a little – especially when combined with gifts from others – can have a BIG impact.  As Adler stated, “Ultimately, every PA should contribute to the PA PAC, which will, in turn, enable PAs to better provide care of patients.”

Grassroots Advocacy:  PAs often don’t realize the power they have as constituents – that legislators want to hear from PAs, want to hear their powerful stories and thoughts on key issues before Congress. And when AAPA urges advocates to reach out to legislators, PAs need to know it doesn’t take thousands of them to make a difference. Actually, there is GREAT strength in even a few advocate voices.

Recently the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) asked legislators the following: “Approximately how many email messages from constituents does it take for your office to consider taking the action requested?” The responses reinforced what we’ve been telling PA advocates for years:  personalized, individual communications from constituents can significantly influence congressional decisions, especially when the letters contain an example or are from an advocate who has built a relationship with that office. CMF reports that nearly 90 percent of Congressional offices reported that 50 or fewer personalized letters or emails from constituents will influence legislators’ decisions, with more than half (55 percent) agreeing that it often takes fewer than 10. When done with a compelling example or story, communications from individual PA advocates can have a huge impact on the legislator’s decision-making and can make a real difference for the profession, and for patients.

Former AAPA president Larry Herman, PA-C, MPA, DFAAPA, says that getting involved, whether it’s through grassroots advocacy or PAC contributions, helps the voice of the PA profession stand out above others in DC.   “Without being heard, and with all of the cacophony of competitive voices today, PAs might as well be silent. When people do not speak up, then others make decisions for them. And those decisions are most commonly not to the benefit of that unheard group.”

The action of individual PAs can make a significant impact on the future of the profession. We look forward to hearing from you in 2018 as we move forward, together. To learn more about PA PAC and how to communicate with legislators on priority issues, visit AAPA’s Advocacy Central.