A Big Difference
I can't help it. Every time I visit Washington, my patriotic pride just seems to spill over. It was no different last month when I attended the American Association for Homecare's Legislative Conference.
On AAHomecare's lobbying day June 8, I walked from one side of the Capitol to the other (and it's a long way around) with Tim Pederson of WestMed Rehab, on the way to keep an appointment with Sen. Tom Daschle. Tim was part of a 200-strong cadre of association members crisscrossing the Hill to speak out against the DME reimbursement cuts scheduled next year.
As we stopped for a breather, I snapped this photo of Tim on the Capitol steps — and had my newest patriotic moment as we discussed how much it means to take an active role in governmental decision-making.
Tim is a small provider from a sparsely populated state. His Rapid City HME has 21 employees and serves 6,000 South Dakota customers. It's neither a particularly large business nor a large patient base by today's standards. But in talks with Sens. Daschle, Tim Johnson and newly elected Rep. Stephanie Herseth (in what turned out to be her first constituent meeting as a U. S. Representative), his state's congressional members paid attention as Tim expressed his concerns about the coming cuts and their effects on his company.
Tim's Washington visit was not without sacrifice. He left his business for several days, paid for an expensive plane ticket, a hotel and meals and traveled 1,300 miles one way to get there. When I asked why he felt the trip was important enough to warrant this individual effort when so many small providers don't participate at the national level, Tim responded:
“If I didn't come to Washington, it would hurt much more in the long run. Operationally, it may seem wiser to most [small providers] to spend their time in the office. But if you care about the future of the industry and you want a voice in the shaping of policy, then you've got to get out and come to Washington and talk to the people here, because they will listen.”
Too often, those of us who live outside the nation's capital forget that we can make a difference, but the truth is you and Tim Pederson and I hold the absolute power with our elected officials. The catch is that if we don't get involved to let them know how we feel, then we can't complain about what they do.