Another Successful Hill Day
by Eric Bergman, RN, CCM, Vice-Chair CMSA National PPC
CMSA has wrapped up another successful Hill Day, which included education and networking for our members and dozens of meetings with legislators and staff. Nearly 70 Members from 22 states came together for the two-day event packed with education, new connections and productive meetings with many members of Congress.
We began the event with a reception allowing members of the CMSA Board, Public Policy committee, and attendees to get acquainted and share stories and lessons from their experience. We adjourned to a training session which featured expert advice and guidance from CMSA Public Policy advisors Neil Neuberger and Garry Carneal, as well as an educational presentation from Chriss Wheeler and Eric Bergman, CMSA National Public Policy Chair and Vice Chair.
Mr. Neuberger discussed the importance of the legislative process and offered advice about how to we could be effective in our efforts to present the important protections we desire for case managers. He discussed the impending end to the CHIP program which insures over 8,000,000 children nationwide, and the need for swift action to extend it.
Gary Corneal presented an overview of the CMSA Case Management Model Act, and explained how we will promote its use. The Model Act can be introduced as specific legislation; alternatively, it can be used as legally, and professionally vetted language which can be adopted in whole in in part to provide robust and important protections to our profession and our work. It is an accepted, recognizable, and effective method of advocating for legislation that members of Congress and their staff will identify as useful support for legislation they may choose to draft or co-sponsor. The Model Act provides legislators with a template to use as they write legislation.
The session ended with an extended period for attendees to respond to questions designed to help them think through the presentations they would be making the next day, and practice, in a safe arena, for questions and discussion they would face the next day from legislators and their staff. The session yielded rich stories and clear arguments for the support of our legislative advocacy, and provided participants with confidence in their ability to present themselves as credible and helpful expects in the healthcare legislative arena.
The second day began with an early morning gathering. Where Neil Neuberger provided another presentation, this time focusing our how best to use our time and provided more detail about the legislative and political environment on the Hill this week. The group was also addressed by former White House Health Care policy advisor and current policy strategist, Chris Jennings, and National Council of State Boards of Nurse (NCSBN) Director of Government Affairs, Elliot Vice. The session provided additional support and education to the professional case manager attendees to prepare them to be as effective as possible at their meetings with legislators and staff.
Mr. Jennings discussed the current environment on Capitol Hill along with sage advice about how to address and effectively communicate with legislators. He reviewed and discussed the current state of national healthcare legislation, that is to say destressingly little progress, many bad feelings, and frustrations. Chris explained that in the last two days two competing pieces of legislation had been introduced:
1) Bernie Sanders’s Medicare for All, and
2) A bipartisan effort to provide stabilization and re-insurance in the exchange markets.
He suggested that Sen. Sanders’s legislation was unlikely to pass, but represented the pressure that both parties are facing from the "base" to present strongly partisan legislation and rebuff bi-partisan efforts. He said the more moderate legislation aimed at stabilizing the exchanges and open insurance market may stand a better chance of passage, but it has not been getting a lot of support or airtime in the national media.
In the end, Mr. Jennings recommended that we use our time on the Hill to build relationships and promote our Case Management Model Act as an entrée to relationship with legislators that we can harness and use to promote specific amendments and efforts when legislation does begin to move. His clear advice about how to address and maximize our time with those we met was valuable and helpful.
Elliot Vice talked to the group about the progress being made with the Nurse Licensure Compact. The compact will allow nurses to practice across state lines without getting a new license in each state provied they reside in a compact state and practice in another compact state. There is new compact language which addresses concerns and objections from some states about the old language. Because of the new language, all states are required to reintroduce the compact legislation and the new compact took effect in July when the 26th state, North Carolina approved the compact language. Elliot was pleased to share that five new states have join the compact and several more are on the verge of passage later this year.
In addition to the state compact, Mr. Vice told the group about actions underway at the VA to promote cross state practice within the auspices of the VA. There are several developments in this area, which Mr. Vice characterized a very positive for the promotion and expansion of the nurse licensure compact.
We wrapped up the morning with a final organization of our state groups, pairing experienced Hill Day participants with first timers, and set off across the Hill to our appointments. Throughout the day participants crossed paths in the halls of Congress and shared brief updates with each other. Our response was overwhelmingly positive and productive. We found as predicted, most legislators and their aides acknowledged that there was not much legislation for us to currently promote, but most were open and welcoming to the roll we play and the importance or the work Case Managers do. They were receptive and pleased to have us as allies and resources and welcomed our continued dialog.
In the coming weeks and months the CMSA National Public Policy Committee will monitor national and state legislation and develop programs and strategies to best promote and protect our profession. We will call on the membership to help us with phone calls, emails and letters to legislators when important issues are identified.