Some of you may have read about our Executive Lobby Day last Monday when Roy Aranda, Pat Dowds, John Northman, Jerry Grodin and I visited five legislators in Albany to discuss our legislative agenda. The response of the legislators was generally enthusiastic.
We will be holding our annual Lobby Day on May 9 which we welcome you to attend. I went last year and found it to be a terrific opportunity to meet and get to know colleagues and, most of all, demonstrate to legislators that we are all intelligent and articulate advocates of an important and growing agenda.
The way it works is that groups of 5-6 psychologists, led by a more experienced member, meet with potential sponsors and signers-on for our bills. We usually meet with legislative aides, who are almost always informed and wield important influence with the legislator. During these meetings, we educate about the importance of our agenda, and share personal relevant stories to support our advocacy. During the process, we, ourselves, become more informed as we face and respond to questions from the legislators or their aides.
One potential outcome of these meetings is that we ourselves become more educated about the legislative process. I’ve learned, for example, how important it is to plant a seed in the legislator’s mind, even if it won’t flower for several (or even many) years. There are many reasons why a desired bill may be blocked. Sometimes, there is a committee chair who doesn’t want to release it. Sometimes it’s not the right time. And sometimes, a legislator might suggest changes that would make the bill more passable.
The latter happened last year regarding our Duty to Protect Bill. Originally, NYSPA was proposing a strict bill, mandating action on the part of the psychologist should a patient reveal violent thoughts. One legislator, a lawyer, was aghast at our bill and suggested we make it a “permissive” bill, in which the psychologist could use his or her judgment in the matter. The “permissive” bill will be more likely to gain supporters among social workers and physicians.
Another important bill, requiring insurance companies to offer Out of Network Benefits, is also currently stalled. There are multiple reasons for this. One is the power of insurance companies who would block efforts to pass another mandate, in this case, a requirement that all plans offer at least one OON option. Another pertains to changes in healthcare delivery which is moving away from fee for service to different systems. Because of these changes and the uncertainty about what the system will be, legislators are in wait mode. Interestingly though, most legislators we have spoken to, are sympathetic to this issue and acknowledge the importance to consumers of choice. Thus, we remain actively engaged in advocacy on this issue and we plant our seeds.
I want to encourage everyone who is able, to start preparing to come to Lobby Day on May 9. You will find it a tremendous peer bonding experience as well as an introduction to democracy.
Herb Gingold, PhD