Pediatricians visit Capitol Hill in record numbers at AAP Legislative Conference
DevinMiller, Washington Correspondent
More than 220 pediatricians traveled from across the country in late April to attend
the 26th AAP Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C.
Adding nearly 100 participants to its regular attendance, this year’s event was the
Academy’s largest Legislative Conference yet.
“There could not be a more critical time for us to be in Washington speaking up for
children,” said Lynda M. Young, M.D., FAAP, chair of the AAP Committee on Federal
Government Affairs (COFGA), as she welcomed attendees.
During the conference, hosted by COFGA and the AAP Committee on State Government Affairs,
participants attended interactive skills-building workshops, heard from policy experts
and leaders about child health priorities, and prepared for the advocacy task at-hand:
urging Congress to extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
and keep Medicaid strong.
“Health care delayed is health care denied,” said AAP President Fernando Stein, M.D.,
FAAP, setting the stage for the urgent need to ensure and protect children’s coverage.
“Our advocacy efforts must be stronger than ever. Without you, there would not be
groups of child health advocates coming to Washington to tell Congress what children
Before diving into their issues on Capitol Hill, participants learned about numerous
AAP advocacy priorities, ranging from protecting immigrant children to supporting
the safety and effectiveness of vaccinations.
This year, about 40 medical and surgical subspecialists participated in a subspecialty
advocacy track, which offered workshops geared toward those pursuing or practicing
in a pediatric subspecialty field. In addition, about 20 participants took part in
a global health advocacy track, attending meetings with foreign affairs legislative
staff on the need to support maternal and child health and nutrition programs at the
U.S. Agency for International Development.
Throughout the conference, attendees heard from pediatricians about the importance
of advocacy and the unique role of the child health expert, including Joshua M. Sharfstein,
M.D., FAAP, associate dean of public health practice and training at Johns Hopkins
Bloomberg School of Public Health; Alan J. Shapiro, M.D., FAAP, medical director and
co-founder of Terra Firma, a medical-legal partnership program for unaccompanied immigrant
children; and Jacqueline R. Dougé, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, medical director of the Bureau
of Child Health at Howard County Health Department in Maryland.
Medicaid and CHIP took center stage on the second day of the conference. To kick off
discussions, Vikki Wachino, M.P.P., former deputy administrator of the Centers for
Medicare & Medicaid Services, addressed the group. An in-depth overview of how Medicaid,
CHIP and the Affordable Care Act have worked together to bring the insured rate among
U.S. children to a historic high of 95% was provided by Joan Alker, M.Phil., executive
director at Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, and Ellen Nissenbaum,
senior vice president for government affairs at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
In the afternoon, participants met with fellow attendees from their state to plan
their meetings on Capitol Hill. They also rehearsed their ask of federal legislators
to extend CHIP funding for at least five years and keep Medicaid strong.
On the final day of the conference, attendees braved the windy and wet Washington
weather to listen to three members of Congress on the U.S. Capitol lawn. The morning’s
lineup of speakers included Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). Each emphasized the credibility of the pediatrician voice
and the timeliness of attendees bringing children’s coverage messages to Capitol Hill
as lawmakers continued to debate health care reform.
In total, participants representing about 40 states visited 200 congressional offices,
including several meetings with members of Congress. Pediatricians at home added their
voice by contacting their federal legislators via email and phone to echo the same
children’s coverage messages.
Virtual advocacy also took place on social media. Over the span of the conference,
#AAPLegCon was used 4,144 times, including one tweet from Sen. Kaine. Pediatricians
used #KeepKidsCovered to share their own messages on the importance of CHIP and Medicaid.
To view all of the photos from the conference, visit the AAP Department of Federal
Affairs Facebook page: http://bit.ly/2qIBXID.
Jessica Simkins, M.D., M.P.H., a pediatric resident and conference attendee, reflected
on her experience in a poem. Here is an excerpt:
“By the time we met staff in the Senate and House
We were armed, we were ready with medical clout
Delivered our message succinct and clear
#KeepKidsCovered is what we got all sides to hear.”