The World's Worst Lobbyist

Thursday, April 7, 2011
She was making a joke. It was her second joke/witticism in the last twenty minutes. And like the first time, I didn’t laugh. I’m not a good fake laugher. At least I smiled. Busted! She again noticed that I wasn’t laughing. Her protests may also have been attempts at humor. Oh well. I had no trouble convincing her that I was not an experienced lobbyist.

About seventy-five members of the Ohio Association of Health Underwriters were at the State House to voice our concerns about pending legislation. The Lieutenant Governor, Mary Taylor, who is also in charge of Ohio’s Department of Insurance, came to talk with us. Even Democrats like me appreciated what we heard as long as she didn’t stray from our particular area of concern.

Like any health insurance agent program, the day began with coffee, juice, and platters upon platters of cakes and pastries. The morning program consisted of several speakers who detailed Ohio’s attempt to deal with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), the new exchanges, and where we, professional insurance agents, fit into this evolving system. Next was lunch and another couple of speakers. By three o’clock we were more than eager to meet with legislators for our pre-set appointments.

There were heavy hors d’oeuvres and cocktails waiting for us at the five o’clock finish line. Being a health insurance agent isn’t necessarily healthy, but it can be fun.

I met with two Democratic State Senators and a Republican member of the Ohio House. While waiting for my appointments I bumped into representatives of the credit unions, service unions, YMCA’s, and other interest groups. I found our elected officials to be incredibly generous with their time. They were sincerely interested in talking with me, not at me. They appeared to be committed to doing the people’s business.

I’m not sure that I was up to the task.

I was supposed to talk insurance. The states can not wait to see if the PPACA will be defunded or struck down by the Supreme Court. All 50 states are attempting to create a mechanism to comply with the law that will best serve their particular population. 50 plans. All different. All based on a law and a set of assumptions that could change at any moment. Ohio’s options and my clients’ needs were my topics. All three legislators veered into other areas.

The Republican and the Democrats wanted to talk about S.B. 5, the bill that was pushed through last week. The Republican appeared to be shaken by the vitriolic push-back. The Democrats were shocked by the over-reach of the newly elected, and incredibly partisan, Republican Governor. The similarities between S.B. 5 and the PPACA are striking. In each case the party in power passed a highly partisan, one sided piece of legislation that is opposed by close to 50% of the population. The victory is short-lived. The Democrats paid dearly at the polls last November. The Republicans in states like Wisconsin and Ohio will probably pay for their impudence this November and next.

My message was that whether you love or hate the PPACA, it is our job to make this legislation work for our clients and all Ohioans. The best use of our time and efforts will be programs that will provide greater access and information. That was the message. I don’t know if I was successful in delivering it.

I might have been more effective had I been able to laugh at those jokes.

DAVE

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