By Jack Dusik
IN MY LAST COLUMN, I wrote that as an ACA member, you have a team of government relations professionals advocating on your behalf to further the aims of chiropractic and who have been successful in bringing home numerous victories for the profession. You may have thought, “But what exactly does he do as senior director of federal government relations?”
Simply put, I am a lobbyist. The term “lobbyist,” to some, carries a negative connotation. So it helps if I define the terms. Lobbying is a form of free speech, protected in the First Amendment of the Constitution, which reads, in part: “Congress shall make no law…interfering with the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Lobbyists, as advocates for every cause imaginable, are professional petitioners of government, who fight for the rights and interests of those they represent.
According to the Senate Office of Public Records, as of October 2015, there were 11,165 individuals required to register with the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House under the Lobbying Disclosure Act. Further, some $2.4 billion was spent on lobbying activities in 2015.
This sounds like a lot of money, but considering this figure falls between the amount Coca-Cola ($3.5 billion) and PepsiCo ($2.3 billion) spent on advertising in 2014, the number gains perspective.
As your advocate, I work to ensure the pro-chiropractic message is received in Congress and is not lost among the cacophony of other voices passionately arguing for their causes in the U.S. House and Senate. How do I do this? That’s what this edition of “Legislative Matters” is about.
Before joining ACA, I spent nearly a decade working in Congress, first with the House Committee on Ways and Means, where I began my education in health policy, which continued during my time as legislative aide for a senior member of the committee. When not working in Congress, I spent years working on campaigns across the country.
This education in how the “Iron Triangle” of policy, politics and procedure intersect in the governing process is not something you can learn from a textbook and is the single most valuable asset I bring to ACA, along with knowing how to apply this knowledge to further the goals of the profession.
My typical day resembles the following: Mornings are important as I read through various tip sheets, newsletters and articles from outlets like Congressional Quarterly, Politico and Real Clear Health. It’s vital to absorb the torrent of information on rapidly changing events, and I regularly gather intelligence myself via conversations with officials and staff and attending congressional hearings and briefings.
After reviewing the day’s schedule, I return messages. I then reach out to colleagues in other health care associations, generally members of the Patients’ Access to Responsible Care Alliance (PARCA), which ACA was instrumental in founding and I currently chair; or the Coalition for Patients’ Rights on topics of mutual concern, such as provider non-discrimination in federally run health exchanges. Working with these coalitions enables ACA to leverage efforts, making a bigger impact on decision-makers in organizations such as Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
Often, I go to Capitol Hill to visit with members of Congress and their staff to advance an issue, such as scope-of-practice parity in Medicare, or to prevent something from happening, such as passage of the odious Truth and Transparency legislation. I frequently check the status of a request, such as signing onto a bill we support, deliver an ACA Issue Brief to an interested staffer or a letter explaining ACA’s position on a subject under consideration in Congress. This is the primary way in which I influence decision-makers and accomplish the most on behalf of ACA.
I may attend a hearing at the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which has broad jurisdiction over health care. I may sit in on one of the many briefings occurring daily on the Hill, often hosted by congressional committees or other organizations such as the congressional Dietary Supplement Caucus. Or I grab coffee in the bustling Longworth Cafeteria or lunch at the busy Capitol Hill Club to meet with staff or colleagues.
Often, on ACA’s behalf, I attend evening events for a member of Congress, where discussions focus on the prospect of a bill passing, and I explain ACA’s position. While it may sound glamorous to attend a dinner with a senator when Congress is in session, there is a grinding series of breakfasts, coffees, meet-and-greets, lunches, receptions and dinners, all for the purpose of raising campaign money. Aside from walking the halls of Congress, this is the most time-consuming aspect of my job. When a filing deadline with the Federal Election Commission is approaching or just prior to a long congressional recess, I may attend three or four events every day for a week.
As an advocate, I am passionate about chiropractic and the value it offers in improving the quality of health care in America. I find lobbying extremely rewarding, and it is my honor to do so in service of the profession’s goals.
Jack Dusik is ACA’s senior director, federal government relations, of the public policy and advocacy department.