Activism in Action

By Michigan State Medical Society

One of the most effective ways of letting elected officials know an organization’s views on issues is through personal meetings. In political terms, this is called lobbying. The MSMS Government Relations team provides elected officials with the information they need to make the best decisions for their constituencies.

We also try to connect legislators directly with their constituents. Elected officials pay attention to mass numbers. When a group of people from a lawmaker’s district request a meeting, email, or call about a particular issue, the lawmaker wants to hear their point of view. As experts in their field, physicians in mass numbers can truly help officials understand the benefits or pitfalls of a piece of legislation. That is why it is so important for all MSMS members to be up to date on what’s happening in Lansing and have a relationship with their legislators.

Getting involved can sound vague and overwhelming, especially when physicians are already overworked and overwhelmed. However, there are many different ways to make your activism fit your schedule. Read on to learn about just a few of the ways your fellow physicians have used to connect with their legislators.

Small Group Connections

On August 9, 2021, MSMS Government Relations staff and three local physicians from the Grand Traverse area hosted a roundtable with Representative John Roth of the 104th House District. As a member of the House Health Policy Committee, Representative Roth is tasked with examining legislation that affects health care in many ways and the physician roundtable served to be an excellent opportunity for Representative Roth to not only meet physician leaders in his community, but also discuss the many issues physician practices are facing today. Coming together in a forum like this not only allowed the group to discuss matters pertinent to medicine, but also to make specific connections to Representative Roth. In future, he now has specific contacts who can meaningfully inform him how potential legislation would impact his constituents directly.

One-on-One in District

One of the physicians who participated in the roundtable was Leah Davis, DO, a radiologist at Grand Traverse Radiology. As a newer member of MSMS, Doctor Davis expressed an interest in getting more involved in the legislative process and over the last several months, she has proven to be a highly effective advocate for physicians. With a genuine passion for health care and the preservation of physician-led care, Doctor Davis made it a point to meet her local elected officials and begin developing the personal connections that allow her to have a direct influence on the way her elected officials look at health care issues. Today, Doctor Davis is a member of the MSMS Legislative and Regulatory Committee and hopes to soon join the MDPAC Board of Directors. With more legislative battles on the horizon such as scope of practice expansion for advanced practice professionals, prior authorization reform, and more, we encourage physicians who have a passion for advocacy to get involved.

One-on-One in Lansing

After hearing about direct primary care offered by Belen Amat, MD, Senior Director of Government Relations Josiah Kissling thought legislators in Lansing should hear about this alternate way to provide care. After ascertaining her interest, he reached out to Representative Bronna Kahle, Chair of the House Health to set up a time to talk.

At a lunch with Chair Kahle and the MSMS Government Relations team, Doctor Amat was able to tell her about this model of primary care. The Chairwoman had not heard of direct primary care and was very enthusiastic about an affordable alternative that could meet patients’ needs. She was able to ask Doctor Amat many questions about the benefits she experienced, the benefits to her patients, and the potential barriers stopping other physicians from practicing in this way.

These more casual, less agenda-driven meetings were low-pressure opportunities to provide information about a less-known topic and build relationships with important legislators. It lays the foundation for them to think of MSMS and our members first, particularly when an unfamiliar topic comes up. In the future, we hope to build on that and truly be the go-to for important information about the practice of medicine.

Lobby Day

A number of physicians came together in Lansing on October 14 for a Health Can’t Wait Lobby Day, joining in a push for action on prior authorization. This group met with 15 different legislators for 30 minute meetings to discuss the dangers of delayed care and the importance of streamlining the prior authorization process. While we must wait to see the ultimate results, the conversations had were all productive and affirm the policy is sound and has bipartisan support. This more formal and focused manner of involvement shows our power in numbers. It allows MSMS to reach multiples legislators quickly and ensure they are getting the important message of how this legislation would positively impact both physicians and patients.