by Smithbucklin Government Relations Team
April 26, 2023
When thinking of advocacy with respect to associations, you might think of grassroots advocacy, or urging your members to contact their local and state representatives to support or oppose legislation. However, the impact it can have on your organization spans far beyond grassroots advocacy. In fact, making an impact within Capitol buildings and influencing the decisions of policy-makers begins with coalition building.
In technical terms, a coalition is defined as “a temporary alliance of district parties, persons, or states for joint action.” In association terms, coalitions are groups of organizations that are aligned on a particular issue. For example, if your association seeks to reduce the prevalence of heart disease, you will likely find professional physician societies, patient advocacy foundations, academic and research institutions, and policymakers with similar interests. By seeking out and forming relationships with individuals and groups with similar goals, you establish a much broader base for a grassroots advocacy campaign than your association’s membership alone. This is important not only for contacting Congressional representatives regarding a piece of legislation, but also for advancing your organization’s initiatives outside of Capitol buildings.
However, certain issues cannot always be resolved via legislation or legislation alone. A prime example of this is prior authorization in healthcare, specifically with The National Association for Healthcare Access Management (NAHAM). A Smithbucklin client, NAHAM recognized its members’ challenges with the prior authorization process that was in place. Inefficiency was resulting in delays in patient care and financial losses for healthcare providers, and patient access professions were facing the brunt of the problem. A limited budget and no existing grassroots advocacy platforms were in place for NAHAM, but the organization took a stance to improve the prior authorization process instead of eradicating it. The Smithbucklin Government Relations team helped NAHAM set the strategy for tackling prior authorization issues and partnered with the NAHAM President to establish a Prior Authorization Task Force (PA TF), which consisted of 11 members, including the NAHAM President as chair of the Task Force, the president-elect, and members at large who volunteered to serve on the Task Force.
In 2022, NAHAM hosted a roundtable, which brought together patient access professionals, payer representatives, and partners in the industry to brainstorm solutions. This resulted in continued and enhanced engagement of five industry partners, three payers, and over 300 stakeholders across industries. By building a coalition of various individuals and groups who already had a vested interest in improving prior authorization, NAHAM positioned itself to lead the way in modeling solutions to improve the prior authorization process for all healthcare members.
Another Smithbucklin client that serves as an example of an organization that maintains a significant legislative presence that is largely devoted to coalition building is The National Association Medical Staff Services (NAMSS). Each year, the Smithbucklin Government Relations team aids NAMSS in hosting a stakeholder roundtable to explore ways the industry can collectively streamline credentialing processes to reduce duplication and cost while enabling its members to effectively assess practitioner competency.
For its 2021 roundtable, NAMSS brought together industry leaders, including the American Hospital Association (AHA), the American Medical Association (AMA), The Joint Commission, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to discuss extending the re-privileging cycle that many accrediting bodies require to three years instead of two. In the months following this roundtable, The Joint Commission, which is the largest hospital accrediting body in the United States, announced that it would adjust their accreditation standards to allow hospitals to re-privilege every three years, thereby freeing up critical hospital resources. This revision also enabled NAMSS members to more fully use their unique skillset to focus more on competency assessment and less on paperwork. By bringing stakeholders together to discuss this initiative, Smithbucklin helped NAMSS pave the way for a major process improvement that will benefit healthcare facilities across the country—and help its members utilize their skills to improve the quality of healthcare.
Advocacy professionals like the Smithbucklin Government Relations team are vital to maximizing the impact of coalitions. The relationships that these professionals have with their stakeholder counterparts help make coalitions possible, and they provide the Government Relations team with insight into an issue and how it affects others, which can be leveraged in forming, maintaining, and mobilizing coalitions. These advocacy professionals are also well-acquainted with the current congressional makeup, and can strategize how your association can take a unique stance on issues that will garner bipartisan support, which is essential for the passage of any federal legislation. They have existing contacts with legislators and regulatory agencies, which they can utilize to build support from those in government themselves and aid your organization in its advocacy efforts.
If you have questions or are interested in learning more about Smithbucklin Government Relations, contact John Richardson.