Headquarter's Report: AuDvocating for AuDiology: Lobbying Basics

Author: Stephanie Czuhajewski, CAE, Executive Director

Preparing to meet with a legislator or their staff for the first time can be daunting. Whether you are coming to Capitol Hill for ADA Lobby Day on November 14th or planning to meet with your U.S. Senators and Representatives closer to home to advocate for the Medicare Audiologist Access and Services Act (MAASA) (H.R. 4056/S. 2446), the following 5 tips may be useful as you make the case for Medicare modernization.
1. Be prepared.
  • Review the MAASA issue summary and key talking points. ADA staff are available to assist you with any questions about the information.
  • Research the issues that matter most to your legislators (usually available on their official website and searchable through Congress.gov). Determine if there is any alignment with MAASA and their interests that could be mentioned during the meeting.
  • Practice your pitch ahead of time. Your presentation should be as simple and concise as possible. Avoid complex clinical terminology and be sure to include specific examples about how existing Medicare policies pose barriers to for your Medicare patients and how MAASA will improve access to care. Make sure to include a formal request for the legislator to co-sponsor the bill.
  • Put together a packet of resources to give each person with whom you are meeting. These leave-behind documents will be a useful reference for your legislator and their staff. Visit www.chooseaudiology.org to download the issue summary, a state fact sheet, and other useful resources.
2. Be patient.
  • Scheduling a meeting with your legislators will take some time, particularly if you are inviting them to tour your office. Their schedules are often in flux and the meeting may have to be rescheduled or canceled at the last-minute. Don’t take this personally—be as flexible as possible in scheduling (or rescheduling).
  • When you arrive at a legislator’s office be prepared to wait.
3. Be polite.
  • Quite often, when you visit a Congressional office you will meet with a staff member and not the legislator. This is quite common and should not be viewed negatively. Legislative assistants and policy staff have a tremendous amount of influence in determining issues of priority and positions for members of Congress. Most of these staff members are in their mid-to-late 20s. Do not make the mistake of treating these bright, passionate young people dismissively. Treat all staff members with respect and assume that they have decision-making authority or are key influencers on the issues being discussed.
  • No partisanship! Your party affiliation and political views may be vastly different from the legislator from whom you are seeking support for the bill. However, MAASA is a non-partisan issue that has achieved strong bipartisan support. Refrain from any partisan discourse or complaining about how your legislator has handled other issues. Maintain a positive dialogue about the benefits of MAASA.
  • If your legislator or his/her staff raise concerns about MAASA or express doubt about supporting the bill, don’t argue. Remain positive and offer to follow up with additional information that may help the legislator more fully understand what MAASA will accomplish or clear up any confusion or misinformation. Make a note of any concerns raised during the meeting and report back to ADA staff. We will be glad to assist.
4. Be brief.
  • Congressional meetings are typically 15 minutes from start to finish. Be prepared to make your initial MAASA pitch in less than five minutes, so that there is ample time for questions.
5. Be honest.
  • You are the expert on hearing and balance care. Be candid (but kind) about the challenges that current Medicare policies impose on your patients and your practice and your rationale for the need for MAASA to alleviate those issues.
  • Throughout the course of the meeting, legislators and staff may ask you questions that you are not prepared to answer. This is quite common. The best approach is to document the question, to be direct about not knowing the answer and to offer to follow-up by email with more information (if you offer to follow-up, be sure to do so in a timely manner). ADA staff will be glad to assist you in gathering any information that you may need to respond.
Other Tips for Successful Congressional Meetings
  • Dress professionally, but comfortably. Business attire is preferred. If attending multiple meetings (ADA Lobby Day, for example), wear comfortable shoes as you will walk a great deal throughout the day.
  • Bring plenty of business cards. Most Congressional offices will collect a business card from each person in attendance for the meeting. You may also leave an additional card with each staff person.
  • Send a follow up communication after each meeting. Plan to collect a business card from each staff person in attendance at the meeting. Send an email thank you and/or a hand-written thank you within one week of the meeting. Be sure to also include any follow-up information that you promised to provide.