Panel of congressmen and physicians discuss the importance of knowing your elected officials
by Kate Alfano, CMS Communications Coordinator
Featured in the March/April 2018 Colorado Medicine.
An afternoon panel discussion at the Public Policy Leadership Forum, “Making Friends Before You Need Them,” featured Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora, 6th Congressional District) and Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County, 7th Congressional District). They both stressed the importance of developing and fostering a relationship with elected officials, and sharing expertise with them.
“There is a lot of trust between physicians and the community, so when you come to visit with [elected officials] we clearly understand that,” Coffman said. “What’s great in the medical profession, with CMS and other groups representing primary care practices or specialty groups, is you come and see us, not a lobbyist representing you. I think that’s somewhat unique to your profession and it’s extremely positive. It helps in that trust relationship [between doctors and elected officials].”
“The medical profession touches every person, every family, every individual,” Perlmutter said. “There’s the business component to it; there’s the professional piece – the knowledge of the doctor and the ability to work with your patient; and there’s the research and technology piece. Your profession is changing every day. For those of us who aren’t in the medical profession, you have to give us your perspective on what’s really happening, how this change in the law or this change in technology has affected your practice and your ability to care for your patients. We need your input.”
Perlmutter gave two examples of how he has fostered relationships with the two physicians on the panel: Mitch Seemann, MD, of Panorama Orthopedics, and Lynn Parry, MD, CMS past president and neurologist.
“Mitch’s practice has probably worked on every Perlmutter in the area,” he said. “The first order of business is to be a good doctor and to do right by your patients, partners and practice. Then that by itself is the foundation of trust that makes a difference when maybe there’s an issue that comes up that affects your practice or affects how you conduct your affairs as a doctor.”
“Lynn has been a friend of mine for more than 20 years, starting as an advocate on behalf of the medical society when I was first elected to the state senate,” Perlmutter continued. “The friendship has grown. There’s a relationship of trust and honesty. Relationships really do matter, in our business as well as yours.”
Seeman agreed, advising the audience to get to know elected officials “when they need you more than you need them” through campaign events, town hall meetings and in-person meetings over many years. He gave an example of when he had to call on Perlmutter when proposed policy was affecting his practice. He and his practice partners were working on a project to deliver orthopedic care in a better way by giving physicians greater input and focusing on higher quality and lower cost care for a favorable value equation.
Unfortunately, a provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) created a roadblock. “Ed was very helpful for us,” Seeman said. “The way we look at things is you do grassroots at the local level, getting to know your local elected officials, then you do the high-grass things to get to the higher-level people on the national level.”