Here are a few tips to help you communicate effectively with your state or federal legislators. The tips are organized under the following categories: What to Say, How to Say it, Afterward, and Resources.
Please note: HFMA chapters cannot advocate or lobby their lawmakers. Similarly, HFMA members cannot advocate on behalf of or as a representative of the Association. However, you may write letters, visit your legislators, organize letter-writing campaigns and rallies, or otherwise participate in the political process as a private citizen or an affected employee. The information below is intended to help you as a healthcare finance professional. Whether you send e-mails, call, or meet with your legislator, these principles are the same.
What to Say
Identify Yourself and Your Community
Tell the reader who you are. Say you are a constituent. Describe your professional position, name the organization you work for, and note your professional affiliations.
Example: "My name is Mark Smith, and I am a CFO with ABC Health Systems, here in Bethesda, Maryland. I am a CPA and a fellow of the Healthcare Financial Management Association. I have lived and worked in this city for 15 years."
State Why You Are Writing
Provide practical information about how proposed legislation will affect your entity and community. Talk about your organization and its goals. Show evidence of local interest. Keep your letter focused to one issue.
Example: "I am writing to express my support for S. 1234, Healthcare for the Working Poor."
Include Your Address on the Letter
Envelopes tend to get lost or torn in all the wrong places. E-mail is now the preferred communication method. However, if you are writing a letter, the address should be provided even if you don't want a reply.
Request a Reply
If it's very important to get a reply, follow up with a call to the congressional office to check on its arrival. Also, specifically request a reply.
Example: "Please let me know your position vote on S. 1564."
How to Say It
Be Clear and Simple
Keeping your comments short and clear will increase the odds your message will get attention. Limit your letter to one page and one issue. At the beginning of the letter, state the specific action you want your legislator to take, and repeat it in the closing paragraph. Get right to the point. Use layman's terms since most legislators do not serve on health-related committees, and therefore do not have knowledge of industry jargon that you may have from working daily in healthcare finance.
Example of clear request for action: "Senate bill 1234 will allow healthcare providers to provide charity care to the working poor. Please support this vital legislation."
Example: Rather than say "charge master," say "the hospital billing system."
Reference a Particular Bill
Give the bill name, number, or as clear a description as you can. There are literally thousands of bills introduced each year in state and federal legislatures. So make it easy for your legislator to identify which bill you are writing about.
Use Your Own Words
Writing knowledgeably about the specific aspects of an issue that concern you is more effective than using generalized, "canned" letters that have been prepared by an outside organization. Also, use facts and sources to support your position.
Example of specific facts: "A study by the National Institute of Health estimates that the number of uninsured working poor is approximately 100 thousand and growing."
Your letter will be most effective if you express your position objectively. Threatening or berating the legislator will similarly undermine your message.
E-mail Your Legislator
- Send your remarks in the body of the email instead of in an attachment. Legislative offices are wary of attachments because they receive many that are laced with viruses or contain objectionable material.
- Stay focused and keep it simple
- Identify yourself and include your e-mail address
- Ask to speak to your legislator. Chances are that you will not directly reach your U.S. Senator or Representative, but you might. Treat the staff member you speak to as you would the legislator. It is often easier to reach state elected officials directly.
- Keep it simple. Stay focused on your issue and respect your legislator's busy schedule.
- Be polite and respect the fact that your legislator may not commit to your position.
- Offer information, not argument. Thank your legislator for his or her time.
- Schedule your meeting well in advance-when calling your legislator's office to schedule your meeting, provide your name, contact information, and the purpose of the meeting, and note if others will be joining you at the meeting. Show up on time.
- Be ready to state your position succinctly. Include facts and figures, and explain how the issue affects you directly. Leave copies of supporting materials if possible.
- Offer to be a resource to your legislator on the issues you are concerned about.
- Follow up on your meeting- send a follow-up thank you note and provide additional information promptly if it is requested.
Send a thank you letter when your legislators vote in favor of your position-regardless of whether the bill passes.
Model letter to a legislator
Locate your U.S. representative
Locate your U.S. senator
Locate your state legislative representative (after clicking on this link, select your state, then "Legislators").
Identify a congressional bill's sponsor, number title, and key provisions through THOMAS, a web site operated by the Library of Congress.
Publication Date: Monday, January 01, 2007