How To Convince Lawmakers to Keep Pre-Existing Condition Protections

The 2010 Affordable Care Act created many protections for people afflicted by diabetes, and perhaps none is more important than mandatory coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions.  Today, the Republicans that run Congress and many state legislatures are working to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  Millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions must unite to protect their right to affordable, quality health care.

Your Government Works For You!

Americans do not think much of Congress.  Their approval rating has hovered somewhere between 9% and 30% in recent years and public polling has found that only about 11% of Americans think the average Member of Congress listens to the voters he or she represents.  

The truth is very different.  Research from the nonprofit Congressional Management Foundation found that more than 90% of congressional staffers say a lawmaker can be influenced by an in-person contact with a voter or a personalized email.  Groups that routinely interact with lawmakers on a particular issue can also be very influential.  Information on home-state impacts of a policy will often move the needle as well.  State lawmakers are usually even more open to influence from everyday citizens, because they typically are less insulated by staff or pressured by donors.  

You can find plenty of real-world examples.  Consider a story recently told to Vox by former Senator Byron Dorgan.  During the Affordable Care Act debate, Sen. Dorgan was a leading proponent eliminating lifetime coverage limits.  He says he was so passionate about the issue because of a mom in his state that had a son with a costly blood disease.  

The mom contacted Sen. Dorgan constantly to tell her story.  She visited him in person, she wrote letters to the editor, and she attended his events.  She told Sen. Dorgan that her young son would hit his lifetime limits by around age 16 and he may not be able to get care after that.  Sen Dorgan said was not aware of this problem until hearing from this particular mom, and she convinced him to become an advocate for banning lifetime caps.  Those caps are now outlawed.  

There are a few important elements to consider in this story.  First, there was a very clear problem that government could solve.  Insurance companies were capping benefits, and the government could make that illegal.  This was not an abstract problem like “curing cancer” where it is not always clear exactly what the government should do.  Second, there was a real person in the Senator’s state the could be helped.  Eliminating lifetime caps presumably allowed this child to keep the health care services he needs to stay alive.  Finally, the mom went to see Sen. Dorgan in person.  A phone call or email can help, but there is no substitute for having a real person make a live connection.  

Congress is Being Influenced Right Now

If you a skeptical, consider the more recent example of Sen. Tom Cotton.  He has been trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act ever since he was elected to Congress in 2013.  On February 22, 2017, however, he was confronted in a town hall meeting by a constituent that says she relies on the law.   


It is probably not a complete coincidence that just a couple weeks later Sen. Cotton became one of the first Republicans to slam the door on the current repeal efforts, saying “Get it right, don’t get it fast.”


What is the Best Way to Contact Your Representatives in Congress?

The first step is to find out who your representatives are.  We have a handy tool that can allow you to find your representatives using your address.  

Next, write down what you want to say.  We can provide you with summaries of the major issues, but the key is for you to make it personal.  Think about how the 2010 pre-existing condition protections in the Affordable Care Act changed your life or the life of someone you know.  Then think about how things would change if those protections are removed.  Lawmakers need to hear stories about real people with pre-existing conditions that rely on the Affordable Care Act.

Once you have figured out who to contact and what to tell them, you just have to figure out where to find them.  You can use the contact information available in our tool.  If you are not near Washington, D.C. or your state capital, consider calling the offices to find out when the relevant lawmakers will be in your town for an event or meeting.  

Federal officials can be more difficult to reach, but state lawmakers are often readily available.  If you cannot find a way to meet your lawmakers in person, research shows the next-best thing is a personalized letter or email.  Phone calls can be helpful as well, but most offices are overwhelmed by calls and that has made them less effective.  

DPAC makes it easy for you to contact your members of Congress with just a few clicks. In fact, if you’d like to make sure they understand how important it is to protect those with pre-existing conditions, click here and share your message!

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