Yesterday, along with several colleagues from institutions and cardiology practices around our state, I paid a visit to my legislators. Instead of staying in my comfort zone making rounds, teaching, and seeing patients in clinic, I dipped my toe into the political process. The legislative day was organized by our local chapter of the American College of Cardiology, with able assistance from our organization’s national advocacy staff. These experts made it easy for us. Appointments were made with our state senators and representatives and each of us had an opportunity to visit the offices of our US Senators and Congressional Representatives. We all met in the morning, were fortified with breakfast, and were given a short but targeted recap of pertinent pending state legislation and its impacts on public health, our patients, and our practices.
We decided to focus our efforts in three areas: an impending vote on a statewide smoking ban, patient access to care, and medical liability reform. We were debriefed about major political barriers to proposed legislation and were reminded about the importance of one-page ‘leave-behinds’ that detailed our views. We then fanned out from the main floor of the Statehouse to offices throughout the building and even sent notes into the House chamber requesting that our representatives come out for a brief meeting.
To a person, our senators and representatives and members of their staff were happy to see us and listened carefully to what we said. We got nowhere on the smoking ban issue with a state senator who owned a small business and who felt that government should not impose rules on private business. However, he is a first-term senator, and he made sure he knew where each of us lived and practiced and he asked us to stay in touch. He also pulled a couple of us aside to ask some questions about his own cardiovascular health. My state representative came out of chambers to talk to us and remembered me from a previous visit. He told me that information that I had given him about second-hand smoke had informed his vote on the smoking ban. We were given a full hour to talk with the healthcare aide for one of our US Senators and had the opportunity to discuss with him the efforts being made by the cardiology community to ensure quality, appropriate use, and patient-centered care. He asked for additional information on several issues and we left with his email contact and promises to stay in touch.
And I intend to stay in frequent touch. Now that my legislators can put a face to a name, I intend to miss no opportunity to weigh in on issues that involve healthcare. I have made myself available to them whenever I can lend insight to an issue. There are many exciting developments and changing strategies in our field, several of which are reviewed in this issue of US Cardiology. To ensure that legislative solutions contribute to the continued delivery of outstanding cardiovascular care, we all have to step out of our clinical, teaching, and research comfort zones and mix it up with the political process when necessary.