Success Story: Flexing Your Muscle with a System Wide Government Relations Strategy
A national health system clearly understood that the flood of public policy changes at federal and state levels was having a major impact on its business.
Despite having a savvy government relations leader at the corporate office, the system lacked a cohesive approach to GR. Efforts weren’t being optimized.
Passage of national health care reform, reductions in Medicaid reimbursements and ongoing facility licensure, rules and regulations were all key factors in the company’s growth, as well as its ability to meet business and mission goals.
Given its size, the health system had plenty of political muscle. But, it wasn’t being flexed advantageously. Quite frankly, they were leaving opportunities on the table.
To increase their influence on the political process, they needed to build a robust enterprise-wide GR infrastructure that could be rolled out across all of their hospitals and create new energy and resources to influence the most important governmental decisions. The plan needed to be scalable, and to be built from the ground up.
The scope of this need was large, and it included some fundamental additions to the company’s strategy.
To enhance their GR activity strategically, build relationships with key officials and coordinate with like-minded stakeholders, we needed to unlock the grassroots voice and contribution power of the company’s 40,000+ associates and to create a coordinated system more closely aligned with the organization’s strategic goals.
Essential elements of the new GR infrastructure were:
- Development of a companywide GR and advocacy policy, with supporting materials and toolkits for hospital CEOs, steering committee members and associates. The toolkits had sample materials outlining expectations for key member activity at the hospital level – including parameters for what GR decisions could be made at the local level, a system for coordination with corporate and goals that should be accomplished for the year.
- Creation of a grassroots and grasstops infrastructure that would engage and educate associates at each hospital about the political and community issues affecting the company. It also involved identifying and enlisting outside friends and leaders who had influence with legislative decision-makers.
- Development of a political action committee (PAC) that would engage in both advocacy and candidate contributions on issues most important to the system, its hospitals and associates. We helped the system set annual system wide PAC goals.
- Establishment of a robust website for all of the system’s GR activities. It served as a central place for facility leaders and associates to get information on current legislative issues and how to get involved. The site would eventually provide not only a mechanism for associates in each state to identify and communicate with their state legislators, but also tips for effective advocacy.
Strategic development and execution of a comprehensive, system wide approach to GR allowed the company to harness the power they had always had and apply it to key issues with more impact. The new infrastructure also boosted responses to local issues.
In addition to instituting a system wide GR strategy, training and tools were deployed at each facility that ultimately rallied everyone from service employees to clinicians to executive leadership.
The system was able to raise money through its new PAC, conduct key conversations and lobby legislators at state and federal levels on specific issues.
With more muscle and coordination, the system mobilized to fight Medicaid reimbursement cuts, to advocate for Medicaid expansion and to more fully engage in election year activities.
In all, the company built a new army of advocates and tapped into a more powerful, effective voice to support its mission throughout the country.