Election season offers opportunity

Thursday, September 15, 2011

WASHINGTON - While lobbying lawmakers is nothing new for HME stakeholders, the 2012 election cycle promises to be different.

That's because a lagging economic recovery and a high unemployment rate have many Americans saying enough is enough, stakeholders say.

"In no other time has the electorate been this mad at their own congressman," said John Gallagher, vice president of government relations for The VGM Group. "Whether they are Republicans or Democrats, there is really a pox on both houses. The electorate is angry."

What that means: Lawmakers may forgo the traditional "town hall" style meetings of the past, in favor of smaller, friendlier settings, stakeholders say.

As a result, HME providers should focus on hosting meet-and-greet events at their companies, Gallagher said.

"It's a selective audience with particular topics, rather than a town hall where the opposition shows up and screams and yells," he said.

It's also important to approach lawmakers already in office and those seeking office, Gallagher said.

"Make sure we are not talking to just the existing Congress, but the next guy in," he said.

Indeed, with anti-incumbent sentiment high, stakeholders predict there will be a lot of turmoil over the next few election cycles.

"There are going to be many new faces in Washington," said Walt Gorski, vice president of government affairs for AAHomecare. "I think one-third to a half will not be here in four to six years. That's always challenging, but it creates opportunity to talk to people about the value of home care and what we do."