It is difficult to put 2020 into words. However, despite everything bad that has gone on in the U.S. and nationally, the SVS PAC was lucky to have some successes.
At the beginning of 2020, the PAC was losing ground on some key issues. We were struggling to improve our membership support and, more importantly, we were staring down the barrel of a cut of 7–11% in Medicare reimbursement. With multiple specialties potentially affected, we joined forces to advocate against the change. Despite biblical-level atrocities and a catastrophic plague affecting the world, SVS membership banded together and the PAC contributed to a fairly substantial success. The PAC hit the ground running, pushing to have SVS members’ voices heard. This was accomplished through PAC advocates speaking at meetings, publishing articles supporting our causes, and holding virtual town halls with members of Congress.
For the two-year 2019–2020 election cycle, the SVS PAC progressed in a positive way. We achieved record-level donations—$191,993. And we achieved that even with shutting down fundraising for three months because of the pandemic. The SVS PAC already is setting its sights higher for this 2022 election cycle. As a comparison, here are PAC contributions from other societies: National Association of Spine Specialists, $216,968; Society of Thoracic Surgeons, $375,505; American Association of Interventional Pain Physicians, $207,394; and the American College of Cardiology: $753,102. Improvements were made year-over-year.
2019/2020 election cycle:
- $191,993 donated; highest in SVS history
- 403 members contributed to the PAC; highest in SVS history
- 75 Capitol Club donors (contributing $1,000 or more) donated $120,586
- Single-time donors (241) brought in $64,231
- Recurring donors (163) brought in $127,762
- 166 first-time donors or donors who haven’t donated since 2015 contributed $49,090
2017/2018 election cycle:
- $124,280 donated
- 286 members contributed
- 82 Capitol Club donors donated $148,120
- Single-time donors (118 people) contributed $31,985
- Recurring donors (167 members) contributed $169,660
One of the most crucial metrics above is the percentage of members contributing to the PAC. Obviously the more SVS members who support the PAC, the stronger our voice. Many members of Congress are less likely to open their doors to a PAC unless the PAC has the support of a high percentage of its members. This last cycle, we had 403 members contribute (7% of membership), whereas last year we had 286 members (5%). Our goal for the 2022 cycle is 10% of SVS members contributing and we hope to start off strong in January 2021. But likely the greatest achievement we had last year was to stave off the Medicare cuts.
Initially, it was not looking good. There was not a lot of interest during the time of COVID to protect reimbursements of surgical procedures. But after a lot of hard work and perseverance reaching out to those in Congress and offering SVS members a quick and easy way to interface directly with their own lawmakers, we had success. We have a temporary reprieve from reimbursement cuts for procedures, tied into the COVID relief package. This issue will require continued work to make permanent and is just one of many reasons why members and the SVS PAC must remain engaged.
The coming year
Nationally and internationally, we still face difficult times. Political unrest, new COVID variants and other issues will definitely affect the lives of SVS members, in addition to the continued potential for reimbursement cuts in 2022 and beyond. Our goals rolling into the 2021-22 election cycle are to continue our relationships with those in Congress we have already gotten to know, engage newly elected lawmakers and/or lawmakers on committees with jurisdiction over healthcare issues, and increase awareness of SVS member issues.
COVID will continue to affect our practices. As vascular surgeons, we are integral to the care of COVID patients. Our legislators must hear our voice, and we need your continued support to do so. So please stay engaged and be a part of our recurring donation pool. You can donate once a year or monthly; this this will allow us to appear strong in support of our PAC into the new year. Visit vsweb.org/PAC.
Hasan Aldailami, MD, and Andrew Barleben, MD, are members of the SVS PAC Committee.