Your voice counts most when it comes to relating concerns to your lawmakers. Your lawmakers care about what you – their constituent - has to say. Participating in advocacy activities calls attention to your priority issues and allows you to contribute to solutions. Advocacy establishes individuals and organizations as a “go to” resource and allows for enhanced participation in partnerships and coalition. If you do not participate, your views will not be heard.
The following information is meant to guide you in participating in advocacy activities on a “grassroots” level. ABC thanks you for your interest and support of advocacy.
U.S. Senators, U.S. Representatives, Congressional staff, Federal regulatory agencies, State legislators and regulators.
If you need help to identify your U.S. Representative or your two U.S. Senators, go to www.senate.gov or www.house.gov. At the top right of each home page you will see information on how to identify your lawmakers.
CONGRESSIONAL MEETING SCHEDULING
- Contact the House and/or Senate office (www.house.gov or www.senate.gov) of your lawmaker through contact information provided on his/her website. Alternatively, you may call the Capitol switchboard (202-224-3121) and ask to be connected to your lawmaker’s office.
- Call the office, identify yourself and let them know you are a constituent. Ask what the procedure is for requesting an appointment to meet with your member of Congress either in Washington or in the district office(s) in the State. It is often easier to get a local meeting in your home district.
- Ask for names of the scheduler and health legislative assistant. If you cannot arrange a meeting with a lawmaker, you should set up time to talk with the health legislative assistant
- Follow up on your meeting request as necessary.
- If you prefer, contact the ABC government relations consultant to assist you.
- Once a meeting is set, always confirm and reconfirm meeting logistics as last-minute scheduling changes often occur.
PREPARE FOR YOUR MEETING
- Know the background of your lawmaker.
- Check out his/her website and read the bio.
- Be familiar with his/her areas of interest.
- Know if he/she has supported your issue (or similar).
- Know the issue you intend to discuss and what your “ask” is.
- Be able to relate a local example of why the issue is important to your patients, your practice, the community you serve, or why it is important to the entire Congressional district/State.
- Be familiar with what the opposition would say.
- Use talking points for your meeting to be concise, on target and on schedule. Often, you may only have a few minutes with your lawmaker or staff.
CONDUCTING YOUR MEETING
- Don’t assume that the lawmaker or staff knows what you are talking about.
- Introduce yourself (briefly) – I am a physician (or other health care provider) who treats patients in your District/State; thank you for taking time to meet with me.
- Mention you are a member of ABC and briefly describe organization.
- Present your issue and stick to your talking points.
- Answer questions respectfully; if you don’t know the answer promise to follow up.
- Make sure to leave behind materials re-enforcing the “ask” along with your business card. This could include talking points or issue briefs prepared by ABC or a position statement from the organization or the institution where you practice.
- Remember to thank your lawmaker/staff for their time and consideration.
- Follow up with a written “thank you” via email and include any promised follow up materials.
ABC may ask you to contact Congress to communicate quickly and effectively on pending issues before Congressional committees or the full House and/or Senate. Here are some simple guidelines for writing to your lawmaker.
- Communication need not be lengthy; always include “The Honorable xx” in the address block and use “Dear Representative xx” or “Dear Senator xx” in the salutation.
- ABC will provide a template for your correspondence. However, it is VERY important that you add a personal example of what the issue means for your patients, practice, and the communities you serve. Form letters are often ignored but lawmakers care about what is happening in their Congressional district/State.
- Be sure to submit your communication by email or fax. Mail is not received in a timely manner.