Half of life-and politics-is showing up

January 1, 2010

It is vital for urologists to take time out of their busy day to contact committee chairs and committee members or, better yet, testify when a bill in committee affects how urologists treat their patients.

My father often told me, "Half of life is showing up." How true it is. In order to get the most out of life, one first has to be involved.

What might tip the scale in either direction? Well, if you ever spent any amount of time in a state committee hearing room, you quickly will realize supporters who offer written or oral testimony usually win. Why? They bother to show up.

When the general public thinks of the committee process, they tend to think about the crammed hearing rooms shown on CSPAN, like those seen during the Watergate hearings or a Supreme Court nomination. I can tell you firsthand that state legislative hearing rooms definitely are not that drama-filled.

Occasionally, a controversial bill presents itself to a state committee where both sides pack a room with supporters. Usually, however, state committee rooms are filled with just a few interested parties-most often paid lobbyists and not the people the legislation will actually affect. I once witnessed a slightly controversial bill passing a committee with only one person showing up to testify in favor. The committee chair stated, "If those who oppose this bill don’t bother showing up, I wonder if they will mind if I pass this bill right now. Call the roll."

The American Association of Clinical Urologists (AACU) encourages urologists to speak up and make their views known. In numerous legislative battles over the years, committee members have been flooded with letters and calls from AACU members expressing their viewpoint. Sometimes this helps win over legislators and other times it does not, but at least urologists become part of the discussion and not just part of the legislative menu.

Urologists should not underestimate the power of the state committee structure, but should move to understand it and use it to benefit urology. By advocating urology’s position at the state Senate or House legislative committees level, urologists can:

It is vital for urologists to take time out of their busy day to contact committee chairs and committee members or, better yet, testify when a bill in committee affects how urologists treat their patients. It can make all the difference. Would you take 4 hours out of your day to fight an insurance company that said you miscoded a procedure that cost you $1,500? Then why wouldn’t you take the same 4 hours to testify in a committee against a policy that might take away your right to offer patients critical imaging tests?

Currently in Pennsylvania, urologists are contacting House Insurance Committee members and asking them to oppose House Bill 247 reinstating Pennsylvania’s Certificate of Need (CON) process. Needless to say, re-establishing the CON process is an absolutely horrible idea. As you know, CON laws have been in part of the national landscape since the mid-1970s. Despite their existence, health care costs have continued to escalate, and new regulations will simply impose additional expenses on medical facilities, providers, and patients.

Most people in Pennsylvania and across the country recognize the need to address the high cost of health care, but legislators ignore this obvious evidence that CONs do not reduce costs. A CON law lives up to Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

AACU does not trust that the insanity defense will work in this case, so members have been contacting the committee chair, committee members, and the entire legislature expressing concern about this bill. So far it, has worked and this bill remains in committee. Urologists must aim to keep it this way.

Remember, showing up in politics means making your voice heard at the committee level when public input is sought, making important policy changes, and possibility changing the direction of a bill. It may seem a simple strategy, but showing up can and will make a difference.

To learn more about the 3% Gross Receipts Tax in Michigan, how to build a better relationship with your"sausage makers," or how to increase advocacy efforts on behalf or urology, please visit AACU's ActionCenter today at http://www.aacuweb.org/.

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