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Communicating with Members of Congress: A Workshop on Grassroots Advocacy

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Title: Communicating with Members of Congress: A Workshop on Grassroots Advocacy


1
Communicating with Members of Congress A
Workshop on Grassroots Advocacy
  • Laura Allendorf
  • AGS Washington Representative
  • Susan Emmer
  • AGS Washington Representative
  • November 18, 2004

2
Why is Grassroots Advocacy so Important?
  • Politically active members help advance the
    associations legislative agenda on Capitol Hill.
  • Members of Congress rely on input from geriatric
    health professionals to educate them on
    aging-related issues.
  • Letters, visits, and phone calls from
    constituents help the staff and lawmaker develop
    their positions, decide whether to cosponsor a
    bill, and determine how they vote on a particular
    issue.
  • Lawmakers ultimately are accountable to the
    constituents who elect them.

3
Why Should I Care About the Legislative Process?
  • Geriatric health professionals depend heavily on
    Medicare for revenue.
  • Medicare is the benchmark for almost every
    private health plan.
  • Congress sets the NIH budget and the amount of
    money available for grants.
  • Appropriations Committees earmark funds for
    your institutions for specific projects fund
    geriatric training programs, geriatric academic
    career awards, and geriatric education centers
    and fund VA programs.
  • Your institutions depend on federal financing of
    graduate medical education.

4
How is Health Policy Made in Congress?
  • Majority party sets the agenda.
  • House and Senate leaders play influential role in
    determining priorities.
  • Due to the high volume and complexity of its
    work, Congress divides itself into committees and
    subcommittees, which play a critical role in the
    legislative process.
  • Committee and subcommittees hold hearings on
    issues to hear testimony from government
    officials, outside experts, and affected interest
    groups.
  • AGS has been invited to testify several times
    over the past several years.
  • Subcommittees/Committees consider legislation in
    markup sessions, where they vote on bills.
  • Once a bill is approved or reported out of
    committee, there is little opportunity to change
    it on the Senate or House floor, so favorable
    committee consideration is key.

5
Which House Committees Have Jurisdiction Over
Health Issues?
  • Appropriations Committee
  • Labor, Health and Human Services and
    Education Subcommittee
  • Ways and Means Committee
  • Health Subcommittee
  • Energy and Commerce Committee
  • Health Subcommittee

6
Key Senate Committees
  • Appropriations Committee (Labor HHS Subcommittee)
  • Finance Committee
  • Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP)
  • Aging

7
How Can COSAR Get Involved?
  • Join AGS Key Contact Program
  • Write your member of Congress in support of AGSs
    legislative priorities.
  • Compete for AGS Public Policy Award. (CA
    Geriatrics Society 2004 winner)
  • Visit your lawmakers and/or their health staffers
    in Washington or in their district offices.
  • Invite your legislators to speak at a meeting of
    your state affiliate or medical society.
  • Invite your legislators and members of their
    staff to visit your office or clinic.
  • Attend/host political fundraisers for your member
    of Congress.

8
AGS Resources
  • Congressional Visits Program, May 2002
  • Key Contact Alerts
  • AGS website posts congressional testimony and
    letters to federal agencies
  • Online legislative newsletter
  • Guide to Communicating with Members of Congress
  • Sample letters

9
Writing to Members of Congress
  • One of the most effective ways you can
    communicate with your elected representatives.
  • Your letters help educate lawmakers about your
    specialty and build support for AGSs legislative
    agenda.
  • Personalizing AGS sample letters with specific
    information on the state of geriatric care in
    your area is especially effective.

10
Visiting Members of Congress
  • Personal meetings are the most effective means of
    political communication.
  • Send request to scheduler.
  • Designate a spokesperson to lead the discussion
    if with a group.
  • Be prepared.
  • Be brief and concise.
  • Avoid medical jargon.
  • Explain what it is that you do.
  • Be specific in stating what you want your
    lawmaker to do, e.g., please cosponsor the
    Geriatric Care Act, please avert more cuts in
    Medicare reimbursement.

11
Yes, Grassroots Advocacy Really Works!
  • Visits and letters from AGS members result in
    more members of Congress to signing on as
    cosponsors of the Geriatric Care Act.
  • After hearing from AGS members and affiliates
    last year, Congress averted additional cuts in
    the physician update for FY 2004 and 2005.
  • Letters from state affiliates build support for
    Title VII geriatric health professions program.

12
(No Transcript)
13
108th Congressional Update
  • ELECTION RESULTS
  • Both the House and Senate health care committees
    will reorganize, adding new members Republicans
    remain the majority party.
  • While there could be a new HHS Secretary and
    reshuffling within HHS, the general direction of
    recent health policy reforms will not change.
  • STATUS OF KEY LEGISLATION
  • The AGS sought key legislative changes during the
    108th Congress and made progress in each of the
    three major areas Medicare payment and GME
    changes, the physician update and geriatric
    health professions.
  • The MMA included two AGS sought provisions from
    the Geriatric and Chronic Care Management Act
    (1) a four-site physician care management
    demonstration and (2) geriatrics GME relief for
    2nd year fellowship program funding.

14
108th Congressional Update Continued
  • The AGS was part of a larger Coalition that
    worked for relief from Medicare fee schedule
    reductions based on the update. The MMA included
    a 1.5 increase in the update due to these
    efforts.
  • The AGS worked to increase geriatric health
    professions (GACA/geriatric fellowships/GEC)
    funding. Due to our efforts, Congress is
    expected to maintain level funding for this
    program most other comparable programs were
    dramatically reduced by Congress this year.
  • LOOKING AHEAD TO 109TH CONGRESS
  • Congress may reopen the MMA for technical
    corrections that could include Medicare rate
    reductions, pursue Medicaid reforms such as block
    grants to states, consider liability reforms, and
    debate providing tax credits to the uninsured.

15
AGS Agenda for 109th Congress
  • The AGS will focus on four areas for advocacy for
    the 109th Congress.
  • (1) Medicare reimbursement changes based on the
    Geriatric and Chronic Care Management Act.
  • (2) Short and long term resolution of the
    physician fee update problem.
  • (3) Including geriatrics on the agenda for the
    2005 White House Conference on the Aging.
  • (4) Maintaining funding for the geriatric health
    professions program.
  • We will provide handouts on the first 3 advocacy
    areas and utilize these in the grassroots section
    of this program.

16
Role playing
  • Conduct role playing around 2 advocacy areas
    Geriatric and Chronic Care Management Act and
    physician update.
  • Following role playing, allow for audience
    critique and question and answer to determine the
    most effective role playing.
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