Industry Faces Coming Lobbying Difficulties, Opportunities
Various factors related to election will make fight to advance industry objectives difficult; providers key advocacy players.
- By David Kopf
- Apr 16, 2012
The coming elections will pose some stiff obstacles to advancing the industry's aims, according to lobbyists and policy advisors Alex Vogel and Stacey Ramp from Mehlman Vogel and Castagnetti Inc., who spoke at the American's Association for Homecare's Washington Update held at last week's Medtrade Spring conference and expo at the Sands Convention Center in Las Vegas.
Mehlman Vogel and Castagnetti Inc. is a bi-partisan advocacy firm that works closely with the American Association for Homecare to advance homecare industry and patient concerns, and Ramp and Vogel took some time to outline key factors that will influence the industry's ability to lobby on its behalf:
- This election is President Obama's to lose and he's likely not to because blue state voters give him a significant edge in terms of electoral college votes, allowing his campaign to concentrate on swing states.
- The Republicans are likely to flip the Senate, but it will be essentially split, leaving the Senate, which requires 60 votes to end a filibuster, largely leaving it a difficult lawmaking environment.
- Since we are in a Presidential election that follows redistricting, the House will not see major upheaval this election, which will mean Republicans will largely remain in the majority.
- The economy is the only issue that is truly at the top of voters' minds and will be the prevailing factor against which all lobbying and legislation is judged.
"It's all the economy, all the time," Vogel said. "The economy is the only issue the voters care about. Even people who say they care a lot about healthcare-related issues, do so in an economic context."
Another important factor is that incumbent lawmakers are facing considerable suspicion from voters. While in the past, even voters that were dissatisfied with the legislature often still thought highly of their own Representative or Senators. That's not the case, this year, Vogel says.
"For the first time in history, your own member of Congress is under water [under 50 percent] on that question," he says. "If you're an incumbent politician, I don't care if you have an I, an R or a D in front of your name, you're a little scared right now.
"And when politicians get scared, the tendency is to do less," he added. "… This gridlock is not our friend. You can very easily explain the 'no' vote; it's very easy not to do something. It's the 'yes' vote that gets politicians in trouble. That is the headwind into which we find ourselves."
Because of this, the effectiveness of professional lobbying will become strained, leaving providers in the position of making true gains in terms of industry advocacy, Vogel said.
"You can run TV ads, you can shout from the mountain top, you can have the best message and the best numbers, but unless Congress members hear from people — real people — what really moves [lawmakers] is you guys calling, you guys going to district offices, and you guys showing up," he explained to the conference's audience. "That's what makes the real difference. Especially when we're talking about things in an environment that is challenging for the simple reason that politicians fundamentally don't want to do anything."
For now, the biggest opportunity the industry has is when it comes the debate surrounding healthcare reform's mandate, which was recently argued in the Supreme Court.
"That, for us, is a huge opportunity in 2013," Vogel said.
Whether it happens in the Judicial, or in the Legislature, there will be opportunities for the industry to advance its agenda, Ramp added.
"The other possible scenario is that they uphold the law," she said. "But even under that scenario, Republicans will want to hold votes to repeal some portion of it, or the whole thing. So they will be doing something, and it provides an opportunity."
Right now, the biggest piece of healthcare legislation this year is the physician payment fix, which was not addressed permanently and must be re-addressed via the SGR bill, Ramp said. Also, the expiration of the Bush tax cuts provides another opportunity, Vogel added. But before the industry can act, it must score the MPP through the Congressional Budget Office.
"Right now, there is no money in Washington," Vogel said. "And when I say no money, I mean no money. … at the end of the day it's all about trading pay-fors. We have to be on the right side of history on that.
"So, there are opportunities," he explained, "but it's on you guys to do that outreach."
David Kopf is the Editor of HME Business.