Legislative Key Contact Program

During the past few years, state governments have become increasingly involved in the health care system. The number of bills and regulations impacting an orthopaedic surgeon's ability to practice medicine and deliver quality health care to their patients has increased dramatically. It is essential that orthopaedic surgeons take a pro-active approach in developing meaningful, effective relationships with their elected officials. These relationships will serve as a foundation for holding successful discussions about issues of importance to orthopaedic surgeons and their patients.

A key contact program allows the Academy and your state orthopaedic society to include you in discussions and other communications with elected and appointed government officials about issues impacting the practice of orthopaedic medicine. A key contact program will help you become an important advocate on behalf of orthopaedic surgeons and their patients.

Most legislators are open-minded and interested in the perspective of professionals who are knowledgable about the issues. As they are not experts in all fields which they address, they must rely on staff and experts in that field to educate them about the issues and the impact of proposed legislation. Your input can be an important resource to government officials on health care issues.

The goal of a key contact program is to personalize these communications and maximize the impact of the orthopaedic community. A successful program will result in meaningful two-way communication between the orthopaedic community and government officials.

BECOMING A KEY CONTACT

A key contact is a critical part of the orthopaedic community's efforts to educate government officials and their staffs about legislative and regulatory health policy issues, particularly those that impact the practice of orthopaedics. The key contact may help provide access to legislators and serve as a respected and knowledgable voice on issues. If you do not already have a relationship with your elected officials, this document will serve as a guide to developing such a connection.

Role of the Key Contact

  1. Develop personal relationships of trust and respect with elected officials and their staff.
  2. Establish a sound foundation for two-way communication.
  3. Inform the public officials and their staff about orthopaedic and health care issues that affect the community they serve.
  4. Keep the public official and their staff informed on legislative or regulatory activities that affect the health care industry.

Important Considerations

  • Overwhelmingly, public officials are honest, intelligent, hard working individuals who genuinely want to do what is "best" for the people they represent. Remember, they are professionals in the field of, "government", and can often use guidance on specific issues, such as health care reform.
  • Politics and government are not dirty words. While the system may not be perfect, most elected officials and their staffs work very hard to create a better environment for their constituents.
  • Recognize that like you, a public official has many demands on their time and pressures from many different directions. Try to understand their perspectives and goals.

  • Maintain communications with elected officials and their staff throughout the year, not just when you need their assistance.
  • Provide clear, concise information. Give legislators and staff fact sheets, background materials, surveys, etc. that support your position.
  • Always maintain a professional attitude in your communications with legislatiors and their staffs. Recognize there are legitimate differences of opinion. Don't threaten if they disagree with you and never hint at rewards for their support. (The person who is your opponent today may be a key supporter on the next issue.)
  • Be ready to compromise. It is a very rare occasion to get everything you want. Know what is acceptable.

The Initial contact

Write a letter to your elected official to introduce yourself. Explain that you are a constituent, an orthopaedic surgeon and describe any other hats you may wear, such as an officer of your state orthopaedic or medical society. Briefly mention your interests in health care issues and offer to be a resource on such issues. Close by asking if any staff person is assigned to these issues. Be aware, many state senators/representatives do not have individual health care staff assigned to them.

Step Two

Become involved with an established organization such as your state medical society or your state orthopaedic society. If they have "medical" days at the state capitol, mini-internship programs, or other similar opportunities, get involved. This is an excellent way to meet your legislator and provide a foundation for a solid relationship.

Step Three

Invite the legislator to a breakfast or luncheon meeting of orthopaedic surgeons, a patient access coalition meeting, or other appropriate group to discuss issues of mutual interest. Make certain the legislator is well. informed about the groups position on the issues to be discussed. Provide a list of attendees and an agenda prior to the meeting. In most circumstances such as these, an honorarium is not necessary or appropriate. Never offer an honorarium without consulting state law first. The AAOS Department of State Society Relations will be happy to help you organize these types of meetings.

Step Four

Keep in contact with legislators throughout the session. Make certain you also keep in contact with staff. This can be done through letter writing. Make appointments only when you have specific business to discuss.

Step Five

Keep the Academy and your state orthopaedic society aware of your legislative activities. Let them know what feedback you receive.

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