Congressional site visits can be a very effective advocacy tool. By inviting your legislator to visit your practice, you get the unique opportunity to show them firsthand the impact of government actions on the healthcare industry. What’s more, these visits can help you establish a vital relationship with the lawmaker and/or his or her staff which is a keystone to successful advocacy. Called a site visit, these informal meetings can be extremely effective at building a strong relationship with your lawmaker and demonstrating how their actions impact medical practices like yours each and every day.
Members of Congress may be familiar with certain healthcare issues, but it is important for them to hear firsthand from healthcare providers and administrators about the impact of things such as the flawed Medicare payment formula, the burden of the overlapping federal quality reporting programs, and the importance of administrative simplification. Members of Congress want to hear your opinion, and a site visit allows them to see where the “rubber meets the road” and how the policies crafted in Washington affect the lives of the people and businesses in their district. A site visit will help your legislator gain a better understanding of how medical practices operate and how government decisions impact your business and the healthcare industry. You can help explain these issues by setting up one of these informal meetings.
Arranging and Conducting the Visit
- Contact the Congressperson’s district office to schedule a site visit with the lawmaker and their staff, preferably their healthcare legislative aide. Don't be discouraged if it takes several invitations before the Congressperson accepts. Make your invitation unique to your practice. For instance, explain a new or unique initiative at your practice that you would like to share with the member of Congress.
- Schedules are tight, so be ready to act on short notice or weeks down the road. Be prepared for schedule changes and a staff-only visit. Lawmakers’ schedules can change at the last minute, for instance, if they are needed for a vote back in Washington. Meetings with staff are still valuable for information sharing and relationship building with the office.
- Be prepared so that your site visit is concise but meaningful. Develop a plan for the visit, including logistics and discussion topics. The Congressperson will want to see your staff in action, so don’t arrange an all staff roundtable discussion. Rather, have staff be prepared to tell the lawmaker what an average day for them is like.
- Map out your tour. Choose specific areas of your practice that illustrate the points you want to make and include quiet areas to talk along the way. Have a schedule that provides enough time to tour the practice and to follow the tour with an informal discussion.
- Familiarize yourself with the member’s general positions on healthcare topics.
- Your ultimate goal should be to build a lasting relationship with your lawmaker and to that end, this kind of face to face contact is invaluable. Be courteous, polite and prepared.
- Inform the member in advance about the purpose of the visit and the issues you want to discuss, such as Medicare payment instability and the effect regulatory burdens have on practices. It’s okay if the Congressperson wants to discuss other topics about your practice and how it operates. This is a learning opportunity for them too. If you get off topic, just give them the MGMA leavebehind at the end of the visit.
- If you wish to provide lunch or coffee, keep in mind that certain ethics rules apply when offering a meal to a Congressperson or staff. See Senate and House ethics rules.
- Offer yourself as a resource and maintain the relationship by updating the member of Congress and designated staff on relevant legislative issues that are vital to your practice.
- Follow-up with a thank you card to show your gratitude to the lawmaker and staff for taking time out of their busy schedules to visit your practice. In the card, you should again offer yourself as a resource on healthcare issues.
Don’t forget to share your site visit story!
We would love to hear about your experiences with these visits. Please share your account of the successes and challenges you faced by completing the attached briefing form and returning it to the MGMA Government Affairs office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Try to take a picture with your lawmaker during their visit. Your visit may be highlighted in a state or national MGMA newsletter or publication!