"Relationships can change the world"

By: Carolyn Rogers

By Carolyn Rogers

During his third term in Congress, former Rep. Jon Porter (R-Nev.) found himself in his local office of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). He’d missed the renewal deadline for an $8 sticker that Washington, D.C. requires you to display on your windshield.

“I arrived at 9 a.m.,” Rep. Porter recalled. At 4:45 p.m., he was still waiting.

“I never pulled the ‘Congress card,’ though,” he said. “I was very patient, but at this point I was tired, hungry, and hot.”

When he finally reached the window, the clerk ran through the checklist, then asked, “Where’s the letter from your boss that proves you work on the Hill?”

Exasperated, but still unwilling to identify himself, he said he worked for himself, and asked “Can’t I just put my business card on your copy machine, and then sign the copy?”

“No, you can’t do that. You need a signed letter on official letterhead.”

At 4:59, the supervisor sauntered over. After a few more go-rounds, the supervisor relented, saying, “OK, but don’t let it happen again.”

Former Rep. Jon Porter addresses the annualPACluncheon.

The healthcare DMV?

Now, “this was for an $8 sticker,” Rep. Porter reminded his audience at Wednesday’s luncheon for members of the Orthopaedic Political Action Committee (PAC), as he wrapped up the anecdote.

“But this is what some of my colleagues want the country’s healthcare system to look like. They want your patients to stand in line, get to the window only to be told, ‘Wait a minute, you’re too old to have this hip replacement,’ or ‘you’re too young,’ or ‘you have to go to the back of the line.’

“This frightens me,” Porter said. “I want you, as healthcare professionals, to be able to make these decisions with your patients. I don’t want the federal government telling you you’re going to do.”

13 percent of Americans decide your fate

In a typical Congressional election, 50 of every 100 citizens eligible to vote actually register. Of those 50, about half (25) show up at the polls.

“How many of those 25 do you need to win?” asked Rep. Porter. “You need half of them; 13 people.

“This means that 13 percent of Americans are deciding who your congressman will be, who will be on the city council, or who will be mayor.

“Think about that,” he said, “I’ll bet we couldn’t agree on what pizza to order in this room today. How would you like 13 of the 100 people in this room to decide what kind of pizza you’ll eat, to choose your toppings for you?”

Of course, this isn’t about pizza, he acknowledged. “It’s about your patients, your families. It’s about our country.

“You have responsibility to vote, and to make sure that your patients and your family members vote.”

Get out the vote

Rep. Porter cited the successful “get out the vote” efforts by Democrats as one of the reasons he lost his seat in the November elections.

“There was an organized effort by the Obama campaign to make sure that members of the labor organizations in Nevada turned out to vote,” he said. “They got people to the polls.”

In 1998, Sen. John Ensign, a Republican, lost his re-election race by only 428 votes to current Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

“That’s why this is so important,” he said. “Make a commitment that you’re going to get people registered and out to vote.”

“The science of politics and the science of health care is a people business,” he told the audience. “It’s about relationships.”

As medical professionals, orthopaedic surgeons have a relationship with their patients, he said. “They respect you. They want to hear what you have to say.”

So do politicians—once you’ve built a relationship with them.

“Because I have a relationship with my dentist, I called him at midnight, to get his opinion on a bill I had to vote on,” he said. “I like to believe that that midnight call changed the course of history in some way, because he was able to give me perspective on the issue.”

Get involved

He urged the audience to donate to the PAC, of course. But “sweat equity” is equally important.

“Guess who I listen to first when they call me up with a problem?” he asked. “The supporters who are out there in the Las Vegas desert heat in August, knocking on doors for my campaign.”

“They may not give me a dime,” he said, but “they give their heart and soul.”

Setting up a coffee in your neighborhood to introduce a member of Congress to some friends is also a valuable contribution.

This might be a bit challenging in some urban areas, he said, but pointed out that his congressional district is the largest in the nation—1.2 million people.

“And I can tell you, when somebody called me up and said ‘I’ve got a bunch of people coming over, can you join us?’ I was there… And I appreciated it.”

Visit the PAC booth

Didn’t attend the luncheon? Be sure to visit the AAOS Office of Government Relations Advocacy Booth—located in the Venetian Foyer West—for an update on the PAC’s various activities. You can also learn how you can become more involved in advocacy efforts that can benefit your practice.