Thank you for taking the important first step to building a relationship with your local elected officials on behalf of the home care industry! These relationships will prove to be critical when it comes to relevant legislation that can affect the industry in that once these relationships are established, legislators will know how their decisions affect you and your business in the district they are elected to serve.
The most important aspect of this meeting is to establish credibility and an understanding of home care. Explain your day-to-day duties assisting patients in the legislator’s district, and be sure to include how, if at all, laws affect your ability to do your job (e.g., new background checks requirement by AHCA, fines assessed by AHCA, patient/physician face-to-face encounter requirement at the federal level). Keep your discussion of the issues brief and to the point as you are only allotted 30 minutes.
Types of Lawmakers
State legislators (i.e., senators and representatives who serve in Tallahassee) are only be able to address state government issues, such as those related to Medicaid and anything concerning the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). This includes the funding directed by AHCA to home- and community-based services as opposed to skilled nursing facilities. Currently, Republicans control a vast majority of the seats in Florida’s Senate and House of Representatives.
Federal legislators (i.e., senators and representatives who serve in Washington, D.C.) are able to address federal government issues, such as those related to Medicare and Medicaid. There are almost no limits to what can be discussed with federal legislators, with the exception of any regulations imposed by AHCA. Currently, Republicans control both the Senate and House of Representatives. Representatives are referred to as “Congressman” or “Congresswoman” and senators as “Senator”.
Before the Meeting
- Do your research. Review materials provided to you by HCAF, which will include a briefing on Medicaid reform recommendations as well as biographical information for the legislator you are meeting.
- Review sample scripts provided by HCAF to get an idea of a typical conversation with a legislator.
- Be sure to dress appropriately. Business attire is preferred.
- Bring pen and paper to take notes.
- If you are running late, call the office and let the staff know.
- Remember that legislators are regular people who have been elected to represent your community. State legislators are part-time legislators who spend 60 days a year in Tallahassee. Nearly all of them have regular jobs the rest of the year and a lot of them are teachers, lawyers, realtors, nurses, insurance agents, etc. The key is to not be intimidated!
During the Meeting
- Be punctual and be patient.
- Feel free to begin the meeting with small talk, but keep to a minimum.
- It is fairly common for a legislator to be late or to have a meeting interrupted due to the legislator’s crowded schedule. If interruptions do occur, be flexible. When the opportunity presents itself, continue your meeting with a legislator's staff. The staff person is often the one with the most knowledge on an issue and usually welcomes the input of constituents or experts on the issues. Staff members often make recommendations to the legislator. Winning over the staff member is one of the best ways to win over the elected official!
- Be sure to address legislators as “Representative” or “Senator” (as appropriate), unless he/she prefers you address them by first name. Although these elected officials serve you, showing this respect can only help our cause.
- Keep it simple when discussing complex industry issues.
- Be sure to listen carefully and take any notes you think are important.
- Be prepared to answer questions or provide additional information, in the event the legislator expresses interest or asks questions. Contact HCAF to obtain industry information to leave behind with the legislator's staff.
- Avoid getting into an argument. If the legislator is adamantly opposed to your position, stay cool and calmly reiterate your position, showing broad based support for it. If he/she is not swayed by your presentation and disagrees with you, don't get hostile. Just because your legislator was against you on this issue, doesn't mean he or she will always be. Let him or her know you appreciate his or her time and consideration of your viewpoint. Don't threaten to vote him or her out of office!
- If you don’t know the answer, tell them that you will have HCAF contact them.
- Be political. Legislators want to represent the best interests of their district or state. Wherever possible, demonstrate the connection between what you are requesting and the interests of the legislator's voters. If possible, describe for the legislator how you or your group can be of assistance to him/her.
- Invite the legislator to go on a home visit with you at some point.
- Thank the legislator and/or staff person for their time and let them know you will follow through with any promised material at a later date.
After the Meeting
- Follow up the meeting with a thank you letter that outlines the different points covered during the meeting, and send along any additional information and materials requested.
- Please send HCAF copies of any correspondence you send or receive from your legislators. When we know what a legislator promised a constituent we can use this information as a tool in our lobbying efforts. We are always interested in hearing your reaction to meetings you have had with elected officials. You comments help us to build profiles on legislators, which in turn will help others who may want to call on that individual.