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National Restaurant Association - Restaurateur offers health care advocacy advice

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Restaurateur offers health care advocacy advice

Hard as it may be to believe, understanding the complexities of the 2010 health care law could be as challenging for lawmakers as it is for restaurateurs. Most have never run a restaurant and may not fully understand why changes in the law are critical to ensure that restaurants can continue to grow and create jobs.

But members of Congress can learn why changes in the law are necessary if restaurant operators are willing to take part in advocacy efforts and explain how the health care law is affecting restaurants across the country. The National Restaurant Association held a webinar Tuesday to kick off a grassroots lobbying effort aimed at securing key changes to the health care law. NRA grassroots advocacy efforts are focusing on changing the law’s current definition of “full-time” as 30 hours per week, simplifying the calculation used to determine which businesses are “large employers,” and eliminating the auto-enroll mandate. Details on those issues can be found at www.AmericaWorksHere.org/healthcare.

“The transition relief and voluntary compliance that the Obama Administration announced was certainly helpful, but does not alleviate the clear and present danger that the ACA presents to the industry as a whole,” NRA chairman of the board Phil Hickey said during the webinar. “Most lawmakers don’t understand how restaurants operate. They may hear anecdotes from our lobbyists…but our legislators don’t always hear direct feedback from their constituents. When they hear from real operators who are hiring people and creating jobs…that’s when a difference is made.”

Tom Boucher, NRA board member and CEO and owner of Great NH Restaurants in New Hampshire, has been an active advocate for the industry regarding health care and other issues. During the webinar, he offered the following tips for restaurant operators to get the most out of their meetings with lawmakers:

  • Don’t be afraid to speak up. “It can be daunting to get in front of an elected official, especially if they’re somebody really high profile,” Boucher said. “I just remember that they’re just like all of us, and they’re there to do the job we elected them to do.”
  • Take part in roundtable discussions held by the legislator. “We really try to find time when our elected officials hold roundtable discussions,” Boucher said. “When they want to hear the perspective of a small business owner, I’m one of the first ones they call because I find the time, I show up and I voice my opinion. And I don’t do it in an aggressive, attacking way. I give them the real nuts and bolts about how [the law] is going to affect our business.”
  • Back up what you say with data. Numbers will both help you make your point and give lawmakers a tool they can use to help make their case, Boucher said. “I’m very transparent,” he said. “I don’t give them anecdotal, broad information. I give them real data they can use.”
  • Be available to the press. This could mean writing a letter to the editor or opinion piece for the local newspaper or making yourself available for interviews. Boucher has done both. “I get calls from the press and I’ve actually encouraged and welcomed it,” he said. “One of the keys is that I call back almost immediately when they call. They’re always up against deadlines. They will appreciate it and they will continue to call back.”

“I really encourage you to reach out and find ways to be heard,” Boucher told webinar listeners. “There aren’t many of us who do it, so when [lawmakers] hear from us, they truly listen.”

Visit www.AmericaWorksHere.org/healthcare for information about grassroots advocacy to ask lawmakers to make important changes to the health care law.

Contact Congress now to ask for reasonable changes to the health care law.

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