With the President and Congressional Majority Leaders working to push the President’s Health Care Reform program through this week, Americans wanting to help shape the outcome by providing input need to focus on getting their message to members of Congress whose votes will make a difference.
Many are asking which members of Congress to talk to, how to reach them and what to tell them. When reaching out to members of Congress on legislation, the following are some pointers that often help improve the effectiveness of the message.
Focus On Communicating With Congress Members Whose Votes Are On The Line
Talking to members of Congress that already have made up their mind is unlikely to make much difference one way or the other. Therefore, concerned individuals generally should target their communications to those members of Congress and their staff whose minds are not already made up or who are facing political pressure to support party positions contrary to what they believe in the best interest of their constituents.
In the current environment, this means Democrats who are undecided or whose commitment to support or oppose the legislation can be changed. For those opposed to the Health Care Reform proposal’s passage, these members of Congress generally would include those Democrats who are undecided, those who have announced plans to break party ranks by voting against passage, and those who have expressed plans to vote for health reform based on party loyalty and pressure.
Various lists of House Democrats who are likely to decide or influence the outcome of this week’s push for reform are available. See, e.g., Blue Dog Democrats Hold Key Voice On House Democrats Proposed Health Care Reform Plan; Contact Numbers Here With time of the essence and the Congressional switchboard likely to be backlogged, the best means of reaching these key Congressional decision-makers is to send a carefully and constructed e-mail or fax specifically addressed to their office.
The following is a list of Congressional Democrats widely perceived to be among those that are most likely to impact the outcome of Health Care Reform which links to their Congressional e-mail.
You can check out how these members of Congress voted on the Health Care Reform bill that passed the House last November here.
Communicate Effectively: What To Say & How To Say It
Before contacting a member of Congress or staff person, it is helpful to take a few minutes to plan your communication for effectiveness. The following are some pointers that you might want to consider.
Tell the Congressional office whether you support or oppose the legislation and who you crisply and concisely at the beginning of your message. Time and other constraints make it likely that at this point in the process, this information is the most relevant and the most likely to make a difference.
Recognize that votes and other political support or opposition are key motivators for many members of Congress who are on the fence. Therefore, how their vote is likely to impact on voters in their Congressional District and/or fundraising or other support in the upcoming midterm election. Therefore, opinions of supporters or potential supporters are more likely to get attention than those perceived to be made by a person unlikely to vote for or contribute support in their upcoming campaign. Therefore, it may make sense to highlight information that would show you as a meaningful source of election or other future political support. For instance:
- If you contributed to or are a member of a trade or other association that contributed to or otherwise supported the Congress member in the past, share that information.
- If you are or have a family member, friend, co-worker or other relationship with a person who is a voter in his or her Congressional District or state, share that information.
Showing awareness and appreciation for the general positions of the member of Congress also can help strengthen your message. For instance:
- If you are aware that the Congressperson has acted to support your position or is considering doing so, express your appreciation for that effort and your commitment to support them for their past work and their efforts in support of your position on this critical vote.
- If you generally support the actions by the member of Congress but are trying to motivate a change in position, share that.
- Consider acknowledging the pressure that the Congress member is under and your willingness to provide continuing support in the future.
Be concise. At this point, individual members of Congress have very little to change the content of the proposed legislation. Detailed discussions about why you support or oppose the legislation probably will get little attention at this time. If you chose to share this information, limit your reasons to a short list of concise, bullet pointed rationally stated reasons.
Numbers Matter: Get Others That Share Your Position To Act
At this stage of the game, public opinion as expressed by the number of American voters making contact is critical. Share these and other resources with others that you know share your views and get them to communicate too.
This Is Only The Beginning: Stay Involved
The outcome of this latest health care reform push is only a small part of a continuing process. Whether or not the President’s proposal or some other version of health care reform passes this week, Congress already has and will continue to consider other legislation impacting health care reform. This reality is demonstrated by Congressional actions recently taken on the COBRA premium subsidy extension, Medical reimbursement for physicians, continuing federal efforts to develop and implement federal health care quality and technology standards, and other legislative, regulatory and enforcement actions taken while public attention has been focused largely only on the broader health care reform debate.
Upcoming mid-term elections will significantly impact the nature and scope of these upcoming efforts. Perhaps even more significantly, the enactment of legislation is only a beginning point. The real meaning of these or other health care reforms will be determined largely by the shaping and implementation of regulations and enforcement actions which generally are conducted outside the public eye. Monitoring and staying active in these ongoing processes provides a critical opportunity to continue to monitor your issues and provide input to shape how they are addressed.
We also encourage you and others to join the discussion about these and other health care reform proposals and concerns by joining the Coalition for Responsible Health Care Reform Group on Linkedin, registering to receive these updates here The author of this article, Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP Health Care Practice Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health industry clients and others about a diverse range of health care policy, regulatory, compliance, risk management and operational concerns. You can get more information about her health industry experience here.
If you need assistance evaluating or formulating comments on the proposed reforms contained in the House Bill or on other health industry matters please contact Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, CTT Health Care Practice Group Chair, at firstname.lastname@example.org, 214.270.2402 or your other favorite Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorney.
Other Helpful Resources & Other Information
We hope that this information is useful to you. If you found these updates of interest, you also be interested in one or more of the following other recent articles published on the Coalition for Responsible Health Care Reform electronic publication available here, our electronic Solutions Law Press Health Care Update publication available here, or our HR & Benefits Update electronic publication available here . If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail- by creating or updating your profile at here. You can access other recent updates and other informative publications and resources provided by Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorneys and get information about its attorneys’ experience, briefings, speeches and other credentials here.
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