Last Updated: Jan 23, 2023
Established in 1964, the Pennsylvania Medical Political Action Committee (PAMPAC) is the political branch of the Pennsylvania Medical Society, and one of the largest bipartisan political action committees in the state.
It is comprised of PAMED members who are interested in making a positive contribution to the medical profession during the political process. Through the use of member contributions, PAMPAC supports the election and retention of pro-medicine candidates, as well as campaigning against incumbent legislators who consistently vote against the interests of patients and physicians.
“The primary focus of PAMPAC is raising money to help candidates get in office and stay in office,” says former Chair Tim Welby, MD. “We look to support folks who are interested in medicine, who are invested in the things that are important to physician practice in Pennsylvania, the things that are important to our patients. The things that make health care better in our state.”
PAMPAC also provides interested members with advice and information on organizing local fundraising events for legislative candidates, along with advising members who are interested in potentially seeking public office themselves.
“In addition to raising and distributing money, we also work with physicians to try and get them more involved in the political process,” continues Dr. Welby. “We advise them on how to approach local legislators, how to get meetings to sit down and discuss medical issues with them, and help educate the legislators on medical issues, on the things that are important to us and our patients.”
When Marilyn Heine, MD, began her tenure as Chair of PAMPAC in 2007, she saw an opportunity to develop a stronger PAC boosted with broader and deeper involvement by PAMED members. Through strategic planning, Dr. Heine helped develop a rebrand of the group that included cohesive mission and vision statements, annual assessments, a new logo, an online newsletter, and a tagline of, “the physicians’ voice in politics.”
In addition, Dr. Heine led efforts to inform county medical societies about the benefits of joining both PAMED and PAMPAC, utilizing peer-to-peer recruitment, and publicly recognizing groups when they achieved high levels of participation. “These initiatives were fruitful” shares Dr. Heine. “PAMPAC saw a significant increase in our hard dollar revenues critical to our operations, as these are the only funds we can turn into direct contributions to candidates. PAMPAC actively engaged in judicial, legislative, and attorney general races and achieved a high success rate electing pro-physician candidates.”
Unlike legislators, physicians understand what is best for their patients, which means they are also in the unique position of having the knowledge to advise on political issues that affect the medical community. PAMPAC provides a voice for these physicians, presenting a united front when it comes to the bills and legislation that will protect patients.
“You want the best possible care for Pennsylvanians and the way you do that is by electing the best people who understand all the issues well and can make good decisions,” says Dr. Welby. “As a PAC that’s our mission: put people in office who are going to help and educate folks so that they do the right thing for Pennsylvania patients. PAMPAC provides the opportunity to have some influence on that. Asking our members to consider supporting certain candidates, and then seeing them get elected… It’s one of those things where you feel like you’re actually making a difference in people’s lives.”
Through PAMPAC, members can have a highly visible impact on the election process and help shape the future of reforms such as medical liability, patients' rights legislation, and insurance contract reform. Former PAMED President Lawrence John, MD, points to the recent signing of Senate Bill 225, which reforms the prior authorization process to expedite approval of patient care and reduce administrative burdens for hospitals, physicians, and other health care providers.
“PAMPAC is instrumental in allowing our voice to be heard in the legislature,” says Dr. John. “You have to be heard as a unit to get things done, and PAMPAC helps us get our word out to the legislature. We support them in their campaigns, we have dialogues with them as to what we think might help our patients and help medicine, we initiate conversations with them to try and get bills initiated and passed. Senate Bill 225 will allow things to be expedited much faster, which will benefit patient diagnosis and treatment. It’s a win-win when the legislators can understand the importance of something like that.”
And while PAMPAC continues to realize its goals, challenges in recent years including an increase in employed physicians, a decrease in society memberships, and many contentious races, means that the group sometimes struggles with engaging physicians in the political arena. “Lawmakers, appellate judges, and other elected officials increasingly impact the practice of medicine,” says Dr. Heine. “Many physicians are not aware that it is imperative to be involved in the political process. They may not recognize that a strong PAMPAC is instrumental to enhance PAMED’s advocacy efforts. Physicians must have a seat at the table to influence the legislative process. PAMPAC helps ensure our access.”
PAMED members, along with their families, are encouraged to join PAMPAC, and medical society staff are also eligible. There are several membership levels available, and lower rates are offered for medical students and residents. Becoming part of the group means your dollars help support the legislative lobbying that seeks to elect candidates who understand the needs of medicine and patients.
Dr. Heine concludes, “PAMPAC helps elect pro-physician candidates for the General Assembly and other positions within the Commonwealth. These elected officials impact the practice of medicine. PAMPAC is the “political muscle,” key to PAMED’s accomplishments in the advocacy arena. PAMPAC must be financially strong to be impactful and effectively serve as the ‘the physicians’ voice in politics.’”