Advocating for Access to Care, Quality and Cost Effective Anesthesia Care at the 2017 AANA Mid-Year Assembly

There I was on April 5, 2017 sitting at Hartsfield Jackson Airport waiting for my 1:30 p.m. flight to Washington DC to attend the AANA Mid-Year Assembly for the 12th year in a row when the thunderstorms came rolling in. You may recall, it was on this day that severe thunderstorms covered the Southeast. As it turns out, I was one of the lucky ones. I arrived at my hotel in DC that evening around 11:00 p.m. Many of the students would not make it until late the next day. Dr. Jim Masiongale, program director of the NAP at Augusta University, was able to make it on the second day of the meeting, but his luggage did not arrive until 8 hours before he was to return home. We can laugh about it now, but many folks were stuck at the airport for around 36 hours. I’m proud to report that 6 CRNAs and 30 Augusta University SRNAs and 3 SRNAs from out of state nurse anesthesia programs made it to Capitol Hill for our legislative visits. We had another successful year of advocating for all Georgia CRNAs back home giving high quality, safe and cost effective anesthesia care. In fact that was our #1 message to legislators this year: “CRNAs can provide the needed access to safe, cost effective anesthesia care if allowed to practice to the fullest extent of their education and training.”

There were two legislative offices we were not able to visit this year. Congressman Sanford Bishop’s office was back in Georgia for a retreat and of course Representative Tom Price’s seat was vacated due to his appointment as Health and Human Services Secretary. As many of you are aware, the District 6th Congressional seat vacated by Dr. Tom Price will be up for grabs during a special runoff election to be held on June 20, 2017. Karen Handel and Jon Ossoff are facing each other. I am a 6th district constituent and plan on visiting both candidates before the runoff. I plan to report my findings back to the AANA office and will ask for the AANA’s financial support for one or both candidates depending how friendly they are to CRNA issues. As you are aware, the AANA is nonpartisan and supports those candidates that support us. I encourage all 6th district constituents to do your homework and go out and vote on June 20th.

The five specific topics we touched on during our legislative visits this year were:

  • to protect provider non-discrimination and essential health benefits in any healthcare replacement plans;
  • support and co-sponsor HR 1783, “Improving Veterans access to quality care act” which would encourage the VHA to recognize CRNAs to their full scope of practice and education;
  • restore rural access to nurse anesthesia services;
  • support workforce development funding and support; and
  • recognize the role of CRNAs in pain care and patient safety.

On Friday morning, April 7 at 8:00 a.m. we CRNAs/SRNAs gathered on Capitol Hill for the 3rd annual CRNA Hill Rally. We spent the rest of the day visiting our Georgia Congressmen and Senators offices with lunch in between at Tortilla Coast, our annual meeting place for lunch. Many of us had an opportunity to visit the new AANA Washington DC office. Again, thanks to the almost 40 CRNAs/SRNAs who made it to DC and made our presence felt on Capitol Hill. I would also like to give a big thanks to Kay Argroves, Wally Phillips and his wife and daughter who attended and supported the 2017 CRNA-PAC fundraising event.

As I always do, I would like to encourage all of you, to attend, sooner rather than later, the wonderful AANA Mid-Year Assembly meeting held every April in Washington DC. It’s about giving back to our great profession and advocating on behalf of all Georgia CRNAs and those throughout the country. If you think you might have an interest in getting involved at the grassroots level with your US Representative please contact me and I will show you the way.

In closing, I would like for all of you to do all of us CRNAs a big favor, if you can’t get directly involved or attend meetings give generously to our AANA CRNA-PAC fund and please respond to the AANA email alerts. It usually takes less than 5 minutes and it’s an easy way to support us all. Remember, our fight is for full practice authority so that we can provide the needed access for our veterans, rural areas and medically underserved areas and provide the most cost effective anesthesia care.

Stephen D. Smith CRNA, MA
GANA Federal Political Director