The political conventions are over, and election season is in full swing. Candidates for office at nearly every level of government will spend the next two months talking to voters and trying to persuade them that they are the best choice.
As you encounter candidates for Congress — whether at town hall meetings, fundraisers or community events — you have an indispensable opportunity to ask them how they would support patients and health care in your community.
As a hospital trustee, you are in the best position to help legislators understand all that your hospital does for the community 24 hours a day, 365 days a year; the challenges that you face as you strive to continue to deliver those services; and how decisions made in Washington affect care back home.
Successful advocacy translates the needs of your hospital and community into messages policymakers can understand and act on. You, as a trusted steward of one of your community’s cornerstones, are able to paint a vivid picture of the impact that your organization has on the surrounding community and make the theoretical more concrete. You are also able to give voice to the people served by your hospital who often lack effective representation — children, the poor, the elderly and others.
The American Hospital Association is a bipartisan organization. It does not endorse presidential candidates, and its political action committee supports congressional candidates from both political parties who support hospitals and their patients. Ultimately, bipartisanship is the only way to get things done in Washington. And it is unlikely that, after Nov. 8's outcome, one party or ideology will dominate every branch of government.
So, keeping that spirit of bipartisanship in mind, I encourage you to ask every candidate you encounter, regardless of party affiliation, how he or she will support your hospital in caring for its community.
On the AHA’s website at www.aha.org/wecarewevote, you will find a guide with a summary of issues that are critical to the field — from preserving expansions in health coverage to breaking down legal and regulatory barriers facing care coordination, from preventing Medicare and Medicaid funding cuts to eliminating health care disparities, and much more. You can use the guide's corresponding questions to start a conversation with candidates for office and get them on the record as to how they will support the important work the people in your organization are doing every day for their neighbors and their health.
We only move forward together, and good health is something everyone can agree on.
Margaret Dahl (Margaret.Wagnerdahl@innovate.gatech.edu) is chair of the American Hospital Association Committee on Governance and a trustee of WellStar Health Network ACO in Marietta, Ga.
I encourage you to ask every candidate you encounter, no matter his or her party affiliation, how they will support your hospital in caring for its community.