Psychology PAC: Why political giving must matter to psychologists

PracticeUpdate newsletter is launching a special column for the 2018 mid-term election year exploring politics, money and psychology.

America is now preparing for another round of major political campaigns. This year, all seats in the House of Representatives and 34 Senate seats are open, with an increasing number looking to be competitive. That means political action committees (PACs), including those representing medicine, nursing and the health industry, are out in full force advocating for their members.

So what does this have to do with psychologists? Why should you care about PACs? Politics and money influence decisions that affect our health care system and the professionals working in it, including psychologists.

Many professions have a PAC, including psychologists.

The PAC for psychologists is called Psychology PAC. Also known as the APAPO-PAC, Psychology PAC conducts legislative and political advocacy on behalf of the psychology profession. This bipartisan PAC advocates for practitioners and educators who are members of the American Psychological Association and APA Practice Organization. Psychology PAC focuses on addressing practitioners' and educators’ concerns, such as reimbursement for psychological services, inappropriate barriers to psychologists’ scope of practice and funding for psychology education and training. Psychology PAC is dedicated to supporting candidates for the Senate and House who have demonstrated their commitment to psychology and psychologists.

“The health care climate is dominated by those who show up, and in order to stay relevant we have to participate in the discussion,” says Lindsey Buckman, PsyD, chair of the Committee for the Advancement of Professional Practice. “I believe it is crucial for psychology to be at the table to educate and advocate for mental health and the profession. A PAC, like Psychology PAC, is one of the ways that we can advocate for psychology and educate legislators on the issues that are important to us.”

Psychology PAC helps get psychologists’ concerns to Congress.

PACs give health care professionals a voice on important issues in local congressional districts and on Capitol Hill, as well as face time with candidates and members of Congress to discuss their issues.

“Political giving enables psychologists to influence broad policies, which they have with passage of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability and Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, for example,” says Doug Walter, JD, government relations associate executive director for the Practice Organization. “But make no mistake, these policies directly benefit the profession, and that giving enables psychologists to help themselves as professionals where they are in direct competition with psychiatrists, social workers and other health professionals vying for fair payment and recognition of their services in the health care market.”

Psychology PAC is falling behind other professions.

Between 2015 and 2016, the American Nurses Association’s PAC reached $1.3 million. The American Dental Association’s PAC contributed more than $1.2 million to political campaigns in 2017. PACs for psychiatrists and social workers contributed two to three times more than psychologists, with $215,096 for the American Psychiatric Association and $171,127 for the National Association of Social Workers PACs. In 2017, Psychology PAC raised only $83,302.

“We have to build our advocacy capacity” says Arthur C. Evans, PhD, CEO of the American Psychological Association and APA Practice Organization. “If you look at the amount of money that psychologists raise relative to other fields — take nursing, for example — we’re at the bottom of the pack.”

Evans believes that psychologists should make political giving part of their professional identity and an obligation. “I think that will go a long way in helping our profession and putting us in a position to fight for psychology, to fight for reimbursement rates, to do the legal battles that we need to do so that psychologists can have a viable career,” says Evans.

To learn more about Psychology PAC, visit the website.

Political giving by profession