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Great Tips on Making a Hometown Visit
(from an AARC Member who Just Did)

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September 5, 2013

Last month we urged everyone to get out and support the Medicare Respiratory Therapist Access Act by meeting with their members of Congress during their August break.

Congress is going back in session on Tuesday, Sept. 10, but they’ll be back home in their districts again Sept. 23–27 and Oct. 14–18, so if you missed making a visit in August, now is a great time to start thinking about how you can get it done this month or the next.

Steve Daines and Brian Cayko
Rep. Steve Daines (left) and Brian Cayko.

What does it take to carry something like this out? Brian Cayko, MBA, RRT, has some great tips from a meeting he had with Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT) in Helena on Monday, Aug. 29.

“I had been aware that Congressman Daines was going to be visiting one of his state offices in my hometown of Great Falls the following Thursday, however I had a prior scheduling commitment that would conflict with this opportunity to meet,” he says. “I found out about his Helena visit earlier that day on Monday and made a few quick arrangements and drove the 200 mile round trip to meet with him.”

Cayko says he went into his meeting with the Congressman equipped with a pre-written script to follow to ensure he covered all the bases in the short amount of time he would have.

“In preparation for my meet and greet I visited the AARC Government Affairs page and brushed up on the major points of HR 2619. This was very easy, and trust me, I didn’t cram ten pages of material into my memory in hopes of reciting it to the Congressman,” he says. “I merely had a two sentence synopsis in my mind of how I could make sure to tell him the bill number and name, as well as a quick statistic about lung disease in Montana.”

He also played on the fact that both he and Rep. Daines are Montana State alums (and the Congressman’s two kids are enrolled there now)—something that helped the two connect and made it easier to segue into the real reason he was there.

“We chatted about MSU for about 30 seconds and we both felt like two Montana boys at a tailgate,” says Cayko, “Then I quickly changed the subject back to respiratory care.”

Cayko also spent some time with Rep. Daines’ staffers, making sure to leave a packet of information about HR 2619 with them for future reference.

Cayko has these suggestions for anyone planning one of these meetings—

  • Visit the AARC Government Affairs page and freshen up on HR 2619.
  • Visit the member’s official webpage and/or Wikipedia to gather some basic knowledge of the member you are going to meet. For example, what party do they affiliate with, where are they from/live now, are there any fun nuggets you can mine that might be good conversation starters?
  • Show up early and familiarize yourself with the space. This also allows you to meet their staffers when the room is not packed. (I was able to ensure that my “leave with” packet was delivered at that time and would not get lost in the busy shuffle later.)
  • Exchange business cards with the staff and find out if the staffer who covers health issues, which would include Medicare, is present; if so, meet with him/her. Follow up the meeting by emailing those key staffers to thank them and remind them about HR 2619.
  • At this particular open house there were probably 40 people in a very small office space and more people outside waiting to get in (everyone there had an agenda to push). If that’s the case for you, don’t get locked down into conversations with other visitors. Instead watch how the member is working the room and position yourself to get “in line” to meet them. If you don’t make your opportunity to meet the member they will probably run out of time and leave before you get your chance.
  • During the “meet” itself, be sure to shake the member’s hand and introduce yourself. It’s also good to have a brief bit of dialogue already prepared so you won’t trip over your own words when the time comes. In my case, the whole thing took maybe two minutes and then I focused the rest of my time on visiting with the staffers.
  • Make sure to relate the bill to its impact on the member’s constituency—here in my state, our legislators key on the “how will it affect Montanans” aspect and I believe the same is true in other states as well.
  • Be sure to have someone snap a picture of you with the member—and then splash it on Facebook and other social media to let everyone know you went above and beyond to support legislation important to your patients and your profession.