Donna J. Spannaus-Martin, PhD, MLS(ASCP)CM, Professor, Medical Laboratory Sciences, Faculty Legislative Liaison, University of Minnesota
Next week, I’ll be headed to the Laboratory Legislative Symposium. I hope the cherry blossoms will be in bloom while we’re there this year, but I don’t go just for a trip to Washington, DC, and a chance to see the sights. This meeting gives me the opportunity to learn about issues that impact the laboratory, and to meet with the people that can help us create policies that will make a difference to the medical laboratory. For example, one of the issues that we have talked about with legislators in previous years is the Protecting Access to Medicare Act (PAMA), and the method the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) used to set the Clinical Laboratory Fee Schedule. This past year, the efforts of medical laboratory professionals across the country resulted in an extension and re-examination of how CMS gathers their data. Our legislative efforts make a difference!
During the time I have been a member of ASCLS, I have learned that personal visits to a legislator are the most effective way to communicate your concerns to them (phone calls are next, and emails and snail mail letters are last), so going to Washington, DC, or even going to their local office, will have the biggest impact. At the Legislative Symposium, we spend the first day learning about the issues. When possible, a legislator or someone from their office will give a presentation. At the end of the first day, those of us who have attended the symposium in the past will role play with those who are attending for the first time in order to give them a chance to practice what they would like to say to their legislators. We are provided with all the information in “leave-behinds,” so we are well prepared. The next day, we head to “the Hill” to meet with our senators, representatives, or their aides. Their aide is usually responsible for healthcare issues, and most of the time there are several of us in the same meeting so it’s not that intimidating!
I hope you will consider going to the Legislative Symposium in the future. It’s a terrific experience, and a great opportunity to get to know other practitioners from your state and across the country. I guarantee you’ll learn a lot, see some amazing sites, and have a wonderful time!