Lobbying: Plan in advance for meetings

Q. Is it more effective to meet with legislators in-district or in Washington?
Friday, September 26, 2014

A. Recess, especially the long August recess, is a great time to schedule a meeting with your elected officials in their home district office (start in early July as their calendar gets booked up quickly). You may feel that an in-district meeting is not as effective as a meeting in their Washington office. As someone who has done both, I can tell you that both are effective—as long as you plan accordingly.

When your meeting is in Washington, you will be meeting with the staffer that handles Medicare policy. Many times, lawmakers rely on their staff to recommend whether or not to sign a piece of legislation. Don’t be disappointed if you aren’t able to meet with them directly. They have a lot on their plate (especially these days) and they may not be familiar with your issues. Again, developing a relationship with the staff in Washington is most important.

When your meeting is in the district office, that is a different story. Very few lawmakers have staff in their district office that is educated on Medicare policy. The best strategy for these meetings is to ask that the staff in Washington that handles Medicare policy dial into your meeting when you schedule your appointment. Many times they will, and the local staff encourages this because it is the person in the Washington office that is the point person for the lawmaker. 

Between meetings, send frequent updates of industry issues to staff in both offices—especially if those issues are impacting constituents or your business. Whether you meet in their local office or Washington is not important: Being able to tell your story is.

Karyn Estrella, CAE, is the executive director of the Home Medical Equipment & Services Association of New England (HOMES). Reach her at karyn@homesne.org or 508-993-0700.