Public policy advocacy in the healthcare sector follows a familiar path. Most small-to-medium-sized companies begin by joining a trade association. Almost every industry has one, whether your business is biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, home health, long-term care, clinical labs or any one of a dozen other sectors. Companies then progress to either hiring in-house expertise to manage the government relations function, assign it to the general counsel, or hire outside legal/lobbying firms to help them achieve their objectives. We think we may have a better way.
Trade groups are an efficient way to buy the knowledge of experienced health policy experts and give you some sense of the regulatory and legislative environment. Trade associations tend to be dominated by the largest members. They have in-house expertise and provide staffing to policy committees within the trade group that tend to establish priorities and the general direction of industry advocacy. This is great, as long as your priorities are identical to the industry’s largest players, which is frequently not the case. After all, the big players are your competitors and they don’t have a vested interest in helping you succeed.
As time passes, smaller companies will likely add either retained lobbyists or make an internal hire to manage the process. This generally happens because of a crisis or because the number of government policy issues becomes difficult to manage. This makes intuitive sense; after all, you are spending resources in the early stage of your company to get your product to market, focused on getting customers and just managing the growth of your company. By this point you are playing catch-up and that can get expensive. Full service Washington-based lobbying and legal firms offer expert advice and good political connections, but you can expect to spend around $20,000 per month, or more, to bring them on board and there will necessarily be a time lag in order for them to fully understand your issues and develop a plan to solve your problem.
Alternatively, you can bring on an in-house professional. The typical profile of an in-house government relations pro is someone with state or federal experience, generally as health staff to a member of the legislature, regulatory or trade association. In order to attract competent candidates for this role, expect to pay around $150,000 per year. The advantage of in-house professionals against lobbying firms is that your in-house pro will be dedicated to the issues that matter most to your company. However, you can expect your in-house government relations executive will have fewer relationships than the bigger firms and will need to spend considerable time early on creating new contacts and establishing ties that can help the company become effective advocates.
The Innovative Option
While trade association membership and engagement is almost always cost effective, specialized healthcare consulting through Baldwin Health Policy Group (BHPG) may be the right option for you. Considerably less expensive and more focused than outside legal/lobbying firms, BHPG starts where you are and identifies your key assets, helps focus your exact policy objectives, helps you organize for effectiveness and implement a plan that is designed to achieve policy success.
This option is focused, time-limited, and intended to get you up and running with a credible program in a short time frame and set you up for further success as your company grows. Eventually, perhaps sooner than you think, you can grow your own internal government relations program with dedicated staff or outside counsel. Meanwhile, you will have done everything you can do to build a solid foundation that won’t have to be reinvented as you grow.
BHPG engagements are intended to encompass a project that, depending on the specifics of the company, may last from 3-6 months at a rate of $7500 per month, or less. Let’s have a conversation to see if BHPG is right for you. We can start by email if you prefer, just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject heading “inquiry”.