Making Our Voices Heard
“The federal government’s role increases with each passing year,” says John Norton, associate director of public affairs for the National Community Pharmacy Association. “For example, our latest data indicate that Medicare and Medicaid already comprise 44% of pharmacy revenues, so the policies for those programs have a profound impact,” he explains.
Regulations stemming from the Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Food and Drug Administration also add complexity. “In many ways, there’s no escaping the government’s reach,” Norton adds.
So it’s vitally important to inform legislators about how laws and regulations affect community pharmacies. “We have to make sure our voices are heard.”
Making a Commitment to Participate
Most small-business owners already understand the importance of participating in the political process. According to a recent survey by the National Small Business Association, 76% of small-business owners have contacted their lawmakers on key issues. What’s more, 40% have established ongoing relationships. Other surveys confirm that they also join political organizations, contribute financially, run for elective office, and hold appointive offices in disproportionately large numbers. Most participate because they feel obligated to help improve the overall well-being of their country and communities.
Pharmacy owners who want to become more involved — but who may not (yet!) be ready to run for elected office — can focus on two key strategies: group advocacy and legislative outreach.
Speaking Up by Standing Together
When it comes to making an impact, size really does matter. That’s why it’s important to support groups that advocate on behalf of many community pharmacies.
For example, the National Community Pharmacists Association (www.ncpanet.org) keeps pharmacy owners informed about industry-specific legislation and regulations.
Pharmacists also can register with the Association of Community Pharmacists’ Congressional Network (www.acpcn.org). ACPCN’s goal is to “make sure that members of Congress focus health care initiatives on patients and taxpayer savings rather than special-PBM interests.”
Reaching Out Directly
While group advocacy is important, elected officials are even more receptive to concerns and opinions expressed directly by their own constituents. They especially appreciate hearing from small-business owners in their communities.
And you shouldn’t limit outreach to national figures. State legislators, city or county executives and council members, and elected judicial officials all play an important role in creating a hospitable business environment.
Other best practices for reaching out at a grassroots level include:
- Attend town halls. Learn about the issues by attending meetings with federal, state and local officials. Most city or county governments publish event calendars on their websites. In addition, state and district-level committees for the national political parties have information about area meetings with politicians on their websites.
- Build relationships. Personal meetings with elected officials and staff members put a “human face” behind key policy issues. A series of meetings at their offices could even lead to you becoming trusted advisors on those concerns. Just call to schedule appointments.
- Support a campaign. Identify someone who best represents your views and volunteer to help them run for office. This is an excellent way for the politician and their staff members to get to know you and your positions.
- Communicate regularly. Send email messages, make phone calls and send faxes to inform officials about your opinions. Keep all communication brief — for example, limit emails and faxes to one page. Identify the issue you are calling or writing about up front, clearly state your position on that issue, and explain why it matters to you and other constituents, and why it should matter to the elected official. Be specific about what you want them to do — such as support or oppose a particular bill. Most important: Clearly explain how the issue affects your business.
- Arrange a tour. One of the most powerful ways to communicate about the needs of your business is to invite an elected official to tour your pharmacy. “Tours have been instrumental in garnering wide bipartisan support for a variety of issues,” says NCPA’s Norton.
Download Our Legislative Outreach Guide
Click here to download an easy-to-use guide to legislative outreach that includes tips for success and letter templates for executing an effective tour.
Identifying Your Elected Officials
- Call, email or mail U.S. state and federal elected officials and government agencies: https://www.usa.gov/agencies
- Find information on local officials and governments, including cities, counties and townships: http://congress.org/
- Find elected officials, including the president, members of Congress, governors, state legislators, local officials and more: http://congress.org/
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, it’s up to community pharmacies to make sure that elected officials at all levels understand the industry’s challenges. Pharmacy owners must become involved by supporting group advocacy or engaging in personal lobbying. At the very least, they must stay informed on critical issues.