Face-to Face Meetings with Legislators and Pharmacy Visits
As in your daily interactions, a personal visit with your member of Congress or their staff leaves a more lasting impression and makes a more lasting impression than an email or phone call. Every member of Congress has at least one local office in the district they represent. Here are some best practices in scheduling and attending an in district meeting with your legislator or hosting them for a visit and tour of your pharmacy.
Meeting With a Legislator—Steps and Protocol
Call the legislator's office to schedule your meeting. You should contact the local district office that is nearest to your community. Have several dates in mind and ask what would be convenient for the legislator's schedule.
Know the issues you want to discuss. Contact NCPA's Government Affairs division or your state association for issue papers and information packets.
Call again closer to the date of the meeting and reconfirm the appointment schedule.
Be on time for your appointment and be patient. A legislator's schedule is hectic and subject to change at a moment's notice. Ask the staff person how much time you have with the legislator.
If others attend the meeting with you, designate ahead of time who will lead the discussion with the legislator. Stick with just one or two primary discussion topics. Be friendly, polite and brief—don't use up too much of your valuable time with small talk. Directly ask for the legislator's opinion on your issue(s). Listen, and put forward your own point of view, but never be argumentative.
Always ask the legislator to take a specific action—e.g. support or oppose a bill or amendment, become a co-sponsor of a bill, etc.
If the legislator asks you a question to which you don't know the answer, advise the legislator that you will follow up on the issue and get back to him or her. Then be sure you do. NCPA will help you find the answer.
Don't feel "put off" if you meet with the legislator's staff. They are very influential in the legislative process.
Invite the legislator to visit your pharmacy when he or she is next going to be in the district. Suggest it as a good way to meet constituents who are pharmacy patients and have personal experiences to share with regard to Medicare, Medicaid and other key issues. Please call NCPA Government Affairs at (703) 683-8200.
Be sure that when you leave, your legislator knows that you are an informed, professional resource should he or she need information and insights about health care concerns.
Always send a "thank you" note after every meeting that summarizes the main points you made in the meeting and what the legislator said. To make the biggest impact also send a thank you note by email.
When A Legislator Visits Your Pharmacy
What Activities to Prepare: Nothing elaborate or "staged." A simple familiarization tour of the daily workings of a community pharmacy is informative enough. Interaction with patients and staff is essential—maybe joining the pharmacist behind the prescription counter to chat with patients.
Make Time for a Personal Meeting: Set aside some time in your tour schedule for a one-on-one talk with your visitor about some critical issues facing community pharmacy. This helps build your personal relationship with the legislator, and it helps establish you as an information resource on health care issues.
Questions to Expect and Materials to Prepare: Be prepared for questions from the legislator and expect the staff people, who usually come along, to take notes and learn from the experience. Know the number of your patients you serve monthly, how many are on Medicaid and Medicare and other basic community service data for your pharmacy(ies). Include this data in a printed Pharmacy Profile to hand out to the legislator and their staff members.
How to Conduct the Tour: Act naturally, as with any other visitor. Don't lobby them too much with political issues, but do save some time during their visit to raise community pharmacy's issues. Just seeing your daily operations should ensure that the legislator never looks at community pharmacy care in the same way as before the tour. You will have achieved your purpose and established yourself even more as an "expert" resource.
Do you have questions? Call NCPA's government affairs department at (703) 683-8200.