Like millions of Americans, I have a pre-existing condition. Under the newly proposed Graham-Cassidy Healthcare Bill, that means that insurance companies would legally be able to charge me extra or deny coverage because I have a condition, and I could also have lifetime caps on the amount of health related expenses they would cover. It’s a pretty terrifying thought. However there are still ways this law can be stopped, and one of those is by calling your senators. Here is my advice for talking to senators about healthcare, or any other topic.
Have numbers for DC and field office
With the latest healthcare vote, the phone lines have been extremely busy in the Washington, DC offices of the senators. In addition to having an office in DC, senators also have field offices in their home states that people can contact them at. These usually have shorter wait times and have hours that correspond with the local time zone, for those who are not on Eastern time.
Write down what you will say
Write out what you will be saying on the phone ahead of time so you don’t ramble or leave a voicemail with thirty seconds of dead silence as you try to collect your words. It also helps to have something in front of you while talking.
Keep your message length to a minute or less- a paragraph should suffice. Here is the message I use, feel free to use it or change it as you see fit:
“Hello, my name is Veronica, and I am a college student with a pre-existing condition. I would like to encourage Senator (insert name here) to vote NO on the proposed Graham-Cassidy Healthcare Bill. I want to ensure that I am able to get health insurance for my condition in the future so that I may work and be a taxpayer, instead of being stuck at home in bed because my condition is not managed properly. Again, please vote NO on the proposed Graham-Cassidy bill. Thank you for your time!”
Prepare to sit on hold
While I seem to have great luck with avoiding sitting on hold for long periods of time, I have had friends from other states report waiting thirty minutes to talk to their senators. Do not give up! Your call really is important for the fight against these bills.
Leave a voicemail
If the wait is too long, you’re calling after hours, or you just don’t want to talk to a person, leave a voicemail. Some senators have voice mailboxes reserved for people from their states and a different one for people outside of the state.
Check what senators accept out of state calls
I received reports that many senators are accepting and welcoming calls from people that live outside of their state. Typically, I do not specify that I am from outside of the state unless I’m asked to do so. It’s also worth noting that the odds of getting any type of response is very low, but know that you are being heard.
Have a letter you want to share? No need to read it over the phone, send it in an email and include a request for a reply. One of my friends noted that some senators do not allow people to send attachments, so keep this in mind if you want to include photos.
Request responses from home state senators
While it’s difficult to get responses from out of state senators, my state senators have been great about sending me replies to my concerns. Even if it’s just a form email, it reminds me that someone listened to my message and noted my concerns.
Follow them on social media
I follow a ton of senators on Twitter so that I can keep up with their different stances on issues and learn more about what they are debating. My favorite out-of-state senator to follow is Chris Murphy of Connecticut (account link here), who frequently posts helpful messages for his followers. Check out his awesome video explaining the healthcare bill below:
And if you are looking for someone that isn’t a senator to follow on Twitter, you can follow me here.
Encourage friends to do the same
Lastly, encourage your friends to contact their senators, especially your friends from out of state! I have been reaching out to a lot of my friends from different states and asking them to take a few minutes of their time to ensure that people are able to continue to get healthcare.
Find your senator’s contact information on the Senate website here, and call them like your life depends on it- because someday, it just might.