by Heather Bradford, CNM, ARNP
Chair, ACNM Government Affairs Committee
While at the Annual Meeting, I had the distinct honor of introducing US Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA) as the keynote speaker at the Midwives-PAC Reception on Sunday night at the Seattle Convention Center. He was welcomed by a roaring crowd of over 60 midwives and 100 nurse-midwifery students who, with standing room only, were chomping at the bit to discuss health care reform and how midwives are part of the solution. Rep. McDermott is a senior member of the U.S. House of Representatives and a psychiatrist known for advocating for affordable access to health care coverage. Since 1993, he has introduced universal health care legislation in every Congress, and is again leading the way in drafting comprehensive health care reform legislation with recommendations for a robust public option provision.
There were several highlights to his speech. When he used the phrase, equal pay for equal services, we all cheered and clapped, as we are once again advocating for equitable reimbursement with respect to Medicare Part B services with our Midwifery Care Access and Reimbursement Equity Act of 2009 (HR. 1101/S. 662), and trying to encourage Rep. McDermott to cosponsor our bill. It was refreshing to hear him talk about the value of having varying types of providers provide health care so patients have choices, and his history of supporting midwifery in WA when he served as a state legislator.
The other highlight of the night was his encouragement for us to teach our legislators about midwives. There was a real “aha” moment, especially among the students, when he essentially said that if you don’t contact your legislators and let them know about your profession, they won’t know about you and will never be able to stand up for you. But if you do your part and advocate for yourself, you can really make a difference. As Chair of the Government Affairs Committee, this was music to my ears. Often I find many midwives only want to deliver babies and leave the grassroots lobbying to a select few. But unfortunately we can’t do it alone! Thank you, Rep. McDermott, for inspiring a room of over 160 to get in touch with our legislators and speak out.
So at the end of the night I was able to walk the Congressman and his staff out. We discussed how HR 1101/S. 662, our equitable reimbursement bill, is a reimbursement bill (which follows his agreement that equal services deserve equal pay), that ACOG was supportive of midwives receiving 100% under Medicare, and that the bill had been scored by the Congressional Budget Office at zero (meaning it wouldn’t cost the government a dime). And with those words I proceeded to the bar to order a glass of wine to toast with my colleagues a successful event. Because that is what the Midwives-PAC is all about – access to legislators. By soliciting dollars from ACNM members, the Midwives-PAC facilitates the direct exchange of information between members of Congress and midwives and gives us the opportunity to speak out about our profession and our health care policy agenda.