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Tips For Developing A Relationship With Your Legislator

To cultivate a close relationship with your legislator and his/her staff, invite them to visit your practice at least once each term, but also any time a change has occurred that you want them to be aware of. Use the opportunity for media attention. Ask to work with their press person to help give them some favorable media coverage. Use the meeting to educate your legislator and staff about your practice and what you do for their district both as a provider of cancer care to their constituents and as an employer. 

When changes occur in Medicare – either through Congressional action (legislation) or through regulatory authority – let your legislator know how the changes will affect your practice and your patients. Be specific on the issues and what course of actions you’d like the legislator to take. 

Use whatever personal or organizational ties you have to help develop your relationship with the legislator... Political action is an effective loyalty builder. Once you are on the legislator’s radar screen, you may be asked for help with their campaigns. If you are able to contribute in some way, you will most likely be remembered.

Get to know the Legislator’s staff people involved in health issues. Call them to discuss concerns so that they recognize you and your intent on following the legislator’s actions on issues that mean most to your practice and your patients.

Tips for Setting Up a Practice Visit

  • Look in the blue pages of the phone book under United States Government. It will have listings for the local district offices and their phone numbers. 
  • Call the local office and ask to speak to the scheduler. Remember to get that person's name. 
  • Tell the scheduler you would like to invite the Congressman/Senator to visit your practice the next time they are in the district/state. 
  • The scheduler will probably tell you that the member is extremely busy, and will ask if you would mind meeting with a staffer instead. The answer is NO unless there is absolutely no chance at all of meeting with the member personally, but you would be happy to have the staffer there too. 
  • Let the scheduler know the issue that you wish to talk about.
  • The scheduler may not have an answer for you right away. Follow-up your phone conversation immediately with a letter formally requesting the meeting. You may want to scan and email or fax this letter to the scheduler. 
  • You will need to be persistent. Don't wait several weeks for them to call you back. They get numerous requests for meetings, and usually spend some of each recess on vacation. 
  • Once the meeting has been set up, send a thank you note to the scheduler for all his/her hard work. 
  • Don't be surprised if the visit gets rescheduled a few times. 
  • Learn about your legislator’s recent stand on healthcare issues by checking out their website.
  • Prepare your staff and colleagues for the visit and make them aware of what you hope to accomplish by the visit. Solicit their ideas for making the visit beneficial.
  • Showcase your practice and your employees. Remind your visitors about the wide range of services you provide to a very complex and needy patient population. 
  • Make sure to outline the specific challenges your practice has encountered and suggest how the legislator may use their position and influence to help.
  • Send a thank you note to the legislator and any staff members for taking the time to visit and remember to restate any action items that may have been discussed during the visit. 

Adapted from Tips For Developing A Relationship With Your Legislator Put Your Communication Skills to Work for Your Program or Department: A Commonsense Approach by Hope R. Wittenberg, Society of Teachers of Family Medicine http://stfm.org/advocacy/writing/developing.cfm

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