President's Report: NEMPAC -- 30 Years as Your Advocate

February 2010

By Angela Gardner, M.D., ACEP President

Thirty years ago this year, the ACEP Board of Directors looked into the future, saw a need, and started a small political action committee to make sure their fledgling specialty would have a voice on Capitol Hill.

Thanks to your support, that small endeavor has grown into an influential and respected multimillion-dollar organization, and one of the top five medical specialty PACs in the country. Today, the National Emergency Medicine Political Action Committee, better known as NEMPAC, ensures that candidates and federal lawmakers have a clear idea of where your specialty stands on the issues.

Political action committees have become an essential part of the political process in the 21st century and are a critical component in the development of good health care policy. The recognition that NEMPAC enjoys on Capitol Hill has brought emergency care issues to the attention of policy makers and provides a platform for emergency medicine in the legislative process.

It has taken NEMPAC 30 years of hard work to get where it is today. Your support has been essential every step of the way. I am continually humbled by your response to NEMPAC's appeals and your personal participation in PAC activities. Your commitment has made NEMPAC a real force on Capitol Hill. It has allowed our specialty to play a critically important role in what could be an historic moment in the history of our country's health care system.

During the current health care debate, we have been actively working with members of Congress on the issues affecting emergency medicine. Because our PAC is a visible player in the election process, we have developed strong relationships with a number of influential senators and representatives over the years. Those legislators have taken the time to understand our issues and have been advocates for our specialty and patients. Throughout the complicated and protracted health care reform debate, our support through NEMPAC played an important role in our ability to draw the attention of key legislators to the critical issues facing emergency medicine.

Thirty years after its founding, NEMPAC has fulfilled the ambitions of its founders by ensuring emergency physicians are part of the political process. But this year's debate is not the end. If anything, it is the beginning.

The 2010 mid-term elections are right around the corner, and your PAC is gearing up. As election season nears, political solicitations will begin to fill your mailboxes. Great and not so great candidates will be asking for your support. Other political action committees will be asking for your donations. How will you know whom to support, and more to the point, how will you know which candidates support emergency medicine and the issues critical to your practice?

It's impossible for an individual to evaluate all those candidates and their stands on the issues confronting our specialty. By supporting NEMPAC, however, you can be assured that your donation will fund pro-emergency medicine candidates who will consider the issues that are important to you and your patients.

Your contribution to NEMPAC also has a greater impact because it is pooled with contributions from other ACEP members. One large donation to a legislator on behalf of emergency medicine makes a bigger impact than a number of small donations from numerous individuals. One of the most innovative and effective ways to consolidate contributions is through emergency physician group donations. ACEP members in groups of all sizes are joining together to pool their contributions and make a greater impact for the future of the specialty.

NEMPAC also expands your influence beyond your own legislative district. It helps direct money to candidates and officeholders you may not know but who support issues important to emergency medicine. The NEMPAC Board of Trustees, which is composed of emergency physicians just like you from around the country, makes carefully studied, well-informed decisions about whom to support, with the input of ACEP staff and chapter leaders. Every donation helps promote emergency medicine's advocacy agenda.

The Obama administration's recent press for final enactment of health care reform legislation should have provided a powerful stimulus for every emergency physician to become involved in ACEP's advocacy efforts. As I write this, the final outcome of that initiative is still unknown, but what we do know is that our specialty must continue to have a seat at the table and a voice in the outcome.

The support provided by the members of ACEP has made NEMPAC a critically important part of our advocacy agenda for the past 30 years. The issues raised by the health care debate are by no means over. The future will bring more debate and more changes to the system that will affect you, your specialty, and your patients.

You can continue to have a voice by supporting NEMPAC today and in the future.

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