AHEC West kept its finger on the political pulse in 2016, as Executive Director Susan Stewart and other staff members met regularly with state and federal legislative leaders to track developments in the healthcare field, monitor their effect on healthcare delivery in Western Maryland, and educate on AHEC West activities and successes.
Part of that campaign involved a summer trip to Washington, D.C., where more than 300 employees of Area Health Education Centers across the country gathered to discuss AHEC funding with Congress to fully fund the program and to discuss its national accomplishments in improving health by leading the nation in recruitment, training and retention of a diverse health workforce for underserved communities.
||Joy Taylor of AHEC West. Maryland AHEC Program Director Dr. Rich Colgan, Jennifer Berkman of Eastern Shore AHEC and Susan Stewart, Executive Director of AHEC West, in Washington last summer
In addition to regular interaction with congressional lawmakers and their staff throughout the year, AHEC West hosted U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin in August for a town hall session on regional healthcare needs. In meeting with AHEC West staff, physicians, dentists and other area health professionals, Cardin expressed continuing support for initiatives designed to attract health professionals to rural, under-served areas.
2016 proved to be a milestone year for political change. As the ACA Connector Entity, AHEC West staff traveled to Washington, DC, to meet with representatives of Sen. Cardin, as well as newly elected Sen. Chris Van Hollen and Rep. John Delaney, to discuss the importance of the Affordable Care Act and its positive impact on Marylanders.
As a follow-up to that meeting, David Stewart, director of the Western Maryland Health Insurance Connector - which provides ACA signup assistance through Navigators serving the three western counties - is slated to testify before Congress on behalf of individuals who have had their lives greatly improved by having health insurance for the first time.
As 2017 opens an era of political uncertainty at the national level, with attendant ramifications for state healthcare programs, AHEC West will continue to keep a close eye on developments in Washington and Annapolis.