In what can only be described as an interesting decision, the Garner Chamber of Commerce recently endorsed a plan that calls for giving hospitals control over how Medicaid dollars are billed.
The chamber endorsed the idea because it was asked to by members of the chamber who represent hospitals.
Taken in a vacuum, that doesn’t seem like an unreasonable thing for the chamber to do.
But as an organization with a broad reach and members who represent a variety of interests, taking sides in a political issue could be something of a gamble. If the hospitals love the idea, but others in the healthcare field – say, doctors or health insurers – don’t like it, the chamber could find itself in the middle of a disagreement it probably doesn’t want to get into.
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Chambers of commerce come in many shapes and sizes. Some work hard at the nuts and bolts of economic development, working directly with businesses considering a move to that town. Others put on the local Christmas parade and a Fourth of July celebration. Others – and Garner fits this bill – try to offer a wide variety of services, from complex issues like recruiting industry to simpler ones like hosting Business After Hours events.
Historically, the Garner Chamber of Commerce hasn’t gotten highly involved in the rhetorical debates around political issues. When an issue is clear cut, such as broad-sweeping tax hikes against all businesses, it certainly makes sense for the chamber, as the mouthpiece for a large number of businesses to speak with its voice – one that’s louder than each business owner’s singular voice.
But oftentimes, there are two sides in a political debate. Coming down on one side or the other will bring you opponents. A chamber of commerce doesn’t want to create opponents. It’s bad for business and it’s bad for those chamber members who believe they’ve been undercut by an organization they are part of.
While we don’t want to dampen political discourse, such actions should remain rare and very clearly thought out.