Making ACA Policy Plain: A Personal Approach

If you asked my high school teachers would I be involved in health policy and education, you would have heard a resounding ‘NO’. My interest in these areas began as an undergraduate at Virginia Tech, and was cultivated as I entered the workforce as a paramedic. I realized that I had a talent for policy and a love of teaching, and was fortunate to have been supported in developing these skills by an amazing group of peers and mentors. I obtained a graduate degree from Radford University, and ultimately entered medical school at the Edward Via Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

I love my work as a osteopathic physician, but realized early in medical school that most clinicians did not participate in policy making, legislation, or political activism. I started seeking out opportunities for learning more about health policy, and again was fortunate to have the support of my professional family.  Through the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) I learned how to contact my legislators and start thinking about the implications that local, state, and federal policy have on healthcare and the patients I treat. More formal training came through the Paul Ambrose Scholars and the Training in Policy Studies (TIPS) programs which taught me necessary skills to critically review policy and serve as a resource to policymakers.

My approach continues to focus on educating the healthcare professional about health policy, and getting them excited and involved in the process. I work with gifted individuals everyday who feel like the process of healthcare policy development and implementation is far beyond their reach, and I enjoy the challenge of converting that thinking into recognition of how much they can be an agent of change. I like to remind my emergency medicine peers how often we have to make complex decisions based on limited information, and how much we enjoy doing so. Then I show them how closely that parallels the process by which laws are written and lives are changed. Not everyone is a convert, but they all begin to understand that they have influence on policy and can help things change for the better. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to write a policy brief on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) during my fellowship training, and because of that gained insight into the complexities, benefits, as well as challenges of this law.  Serving as a resource to my fellow physicians about ACA effects on healthcare access, quality, and cost has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my decision to engage in policymaking.

Whenever an opportunity presents itself to educate someone about health policy such as the ACA, I think it is worth the time to do so.  Patients, healthcare workers, administrators and others often are uncertain about how a policy will impact them.  A sense of fear then ensues, and people start to make decisions from this place of fear instead of a place of strength and knowledge.  I strive to inform, educate, and inspire others to create the policies that will allow for compassionate, competent, and cost-effective healthcare, and am so honored to have been chosen as a "Champion of Change" as part of President Obama’s “Winning the Future” initiative.

Dr. John Casey is currently the Chief Resident of Emergency Medicine at Doctors Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. 

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