Just pretend you're talking to a friend

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Q. I don’t like to call my congressman. I don’t know what to say and I worry about saying something wrong. Any advice?

A. The intimidation factor is something I hear about a lot from provider owners and employees, but there is truly nothing to fear. The legislator and the staff person really are there to serve you, and they want to hear your views. The decisions your legislator makes are based on what the constituents tell him, so you’re just adding your voice.

As for what to say, there are plenty of “talking points” available from different industry groups and manufacturers. Use them to express your viewpoint. Think about what you would say to a friend or another provider about the subject and use those words when you call Washington, D.C. The most important part of what you say is “your” personal story. Tell them how you and your patients are being affected. Your member of Congress wants to hear your personal story, and it might touch a nerve that changes his or her mind about the issue.

If you want to prepare for the call, just take the talking points, write a couple of sentences and then deliver them to a member of your staff or your spouse to get some feedback. It is highly unlikely that you will say something wrong. Just pretend you are talking to that DME friend at the state association meeting and let your passion flow. Even if they ask a question, you know the subject well so just answer honestly and you’ll be fine.

Usually when the time comes to call Congress, you will be prompted by someone - a state or national association, for example - about the issues that need to be addressed. You are also likely to already have your own views on the subject and to have a personal business experience related to the topic. It should be no more difficult than other conservation. You’re simply asking for their support for your position.

Wayne Stanfield is president and CEO of NAIMES. Reach him at 434-572-9457 or yourfuture@dmehelp.org