Repealing Obamacare: How to be heard by Congress
Originally I was going to write a self-reflective post this week about how I’m managing my emotions after the election. But things are moving too quickly on repealing Obamacare for that.
Yesterday, the Senate passed a budget resolution which was the first step in the Obamacare repeal process. Today, the House voted to do the same.
No time for navel gazing. Time to take action.
Time to let my members of Congress (MOC) know where I stand on repealing and replacing Obamacare, aka the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
I urge you to do that same. Here’s how.
Call your congressperson and senators!
 Find out who represents you in Congress.
Go to http://www.whoismyrepresentative.com/ and enter your zip code. The website will then show you a list of your MOCs and their DC office phone numbers. You will see your Representative in the House of Representatives and your state’s two Senators in the Senate.
 Prepare what you want to say.
The call will be short, maybe a minute or two. Be prepared. Write what you want to say. Read through it a couple of times so that it’s familiar and you don’t stumble over your word. Have your script in front of you during the call.
Here’s an outline of what to say with a sample script you can change to meet your needs.
[a] Identify yourself and let the staffer know you are a constituent. If they don’t know you’re a constituent they are likely to ignore you. You may be asked to give your address or some contact info.
Hi, my name is Corinna Cornejo. I’m a constituent of Representative Gabbard and I live on Oahu.
[b] State clearly the issue you are concerned about.
I’m calling about the Republican’s efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare.
[c] State your position clearly and what you’d like the Representative or Senator to do.
I understand that Obamacare needs improvements. However, I do not support repealing it, especially if there’s no clear plan for its replacement. I hope Rep. Gabbard’s votes will support continued access to affordable healthcare for everyone, including for those of us living with pre-existing conditions.
[d] Add some background or a personal story that tells why this issue is important to you and should be important to the Representative or Senator. Keep it short and to the point.
I, myself, am living with diabetes. Having access to affordable healthcare keeps me alive.
Did you realize that one-in-three people in Hawai`i is affected by diabetes? And if left untreated diabetes can lead to blindness, kidney failure, heart failure, and even death?
If Obamacare is repealed without a comprehensive replacement hundreds of thousands of people in Hawaii will suffer.
[e] Wrap it up politely.
Please be sure to tally my support for continued affordable healthcare access for everyone on your call sheet. Thank you.
 Call your MOC’s office.
Just do it!
Your message needs to be timely. In other words, call before a key vote of committee hearing happens.
What if your MOC already supports your position? You can still call and say thank you. Thank them for their vote and for supporting the position you want.
What if you miss a key vote or committee hearing? If it’s an issue that ongoing, like affordable healthcare, then you can call to let them know what you want them to support going forward.
Can you call after hours? Sure. You’ll be sent to voicemail and can leave your message there.
 Share that you called and anything interesting that happened during the call on social media
Tweet. Facebook. Blog. Sharing is caring.
You can motivate others with a call to action. You can give your legislator a shout out by including their handle. You can join the bigger conversation by including the relevant hashtags.
And it just feels good to know that you stood up for something, used your voice, and were heard.
A few things to remember:
- Understand that you will most likely be speaking with a junior person in the office. They’re the ones who answer the phone.
- Conduct yourself professionally. Emotions can run high on issues we care about. But an outburst or snarkiness serves no purpose.
- Always treat the staffer with respect. They work in a busy office and have a job to do.
- Understand that this will be a short conversation. Get to the point!
A few don’ts:
- Don’t call party leadership or committee chairs unless you are their constituent. You can’t vote for them and they won’t care where you stand on the issue.
- Don’t say that if the Representative or Senator doesn’t vote a certain way or take a certain position they’ve lost your vote. This will be seen as an idle threat. More importantly, this undermines your credibility. If you’re not going to vote for them anyway, why should they listen to you?
- Don’t bombard the office with calls, faxes, emails, etc. Legislators’ offices are busy places. Their staffers have a job to do. And they don’t like dealing with SPAM any more than you do. If you don’t feel like your concern has been heard then make an appointment to speak with someone in the district office.
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For those who want to know more about how to reach Congress, check out:
INDIVISIBLE: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda Former congressional staffers reveal best practices for making Congress listen
For those who want to follow policy issues related to diabetes and healthcare, check out:
Diabetes Advocates hub
A program of Diabetes Hands Foundation, Diabetes Advocates publishes weekly roundups of health policy events in the US, primarily at the federal level. They also have an advocacy resources page.
DPAC: Diabetes Patient Advocacy Coalition
DPAC is a grassroots organization that compiles a Congressional scorecard for individual legislators and issues action alerts on issues affecting people with diabetes.
American Diabetes Association: Advocacy
This national organization advocates for diabetes research and programs.
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One thought on “Repealing Obamacare: How to be heard by Congress”
One more thing to highlight. Remember the people you talk to have one job. They have a three column sheet marked for, undecided and against. They make a check mark based on how they assess your call or email. Be clear early in the conversation where you stand. Do not leave it to chance.
At the end of the day, they do the following: they send the tally sheet to the office director, then they feed your name and address to the contact database.
One final thing, vote. Voters have power. Make sure you vote and make sure you connect the dots. If you disagree with this vote, vote like it.