The American Medical Group Association, which represents many of the nation's largest medical practices, has beefed up its political presence by hiring Chester Speed, a former government official and longtime Washington lobbyist, as vice president of public policy and political affairs.
The 38-year-old lawyer will direct government-affairs activities with Congress, the White House and executive agencies, underscoring recent efforts by the AMGA to bolster its lobbying muscle and burnish its image in the nation's capital.
Speed said officials at the AMGA expect him to help increase the organization's exposure and influence on several key issues, a list that is topped by the "Medicare reform and prescription drug bill that includes all the myriad issues of interest to our members."
Speed, who started his job in late October, said his past roles in both government and private industry in Washington "allowed me to take a look at the minutiae of how physicians and providers practice, and the obstacles and challenges that they face."
Donald Fisher, president and CEO of the Alexandria, Va.-based association, said Speed's "experience in health policy, law and advocacy is perfectly suited to the AMGA's public policy and government-affairs initiatives."
The AMGA represents about 300 big medical groups with more than 65,000 members, for an average size of about 200 doctors per group.
The AMGA, whose members deliver healthcare to more than 50 million people in 40 states, began its renewed focus on public policy and politics last year. Efforts included hiring two high-profile lobbyists in consultant roles-Dan Boston, a former top official at the Federation of American Hospitals who has a Republican background, and Laird Burnett, a one-time senior vice president for one of Washington's best-known lobbying firms who has been affiliated with the Democratic Party.
"We've got a strong Republican perspective, and a strong Democratic perspective," Fisher said. "We're nonpartisan."