At www.rheumatology.org/advocacy you will find resources to help you most effectively advocate and articulate your message. Resources include:
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1. Ways to Contact Your Member of Congress
- Calling your member of Congress is one of the easiest ways to bring the issues of the rheumatology community to his or her attention. Call the AMA’s Grassroots Hotline at (800) 833-6354.
- E-mail is another quick and effective method of getting your message to your elected official. Use the ACR’s Legislative Action Center, available by clicking on “Legislative Action Center” on the Advocacy page, and make sure to personalize your message.
- Letters are an important and effective way to introduce yourself and tell your legislator your stance on multiple issues. Short, handwritten letters are best; make sure to include your full address so that he or she knows you live in his or her district. Because mail to Congress may take time, you should also fax the handwritten letter. You can find contact information for your member of Congress on the ACR Legislative Action Center page.
- An in-person meeting is a very effective way to convey your message and allows you to build a relationship with your legislator and his or her staff. You can organize a meeting in your district or in Washington, D.C., with your member of Congress, or join the ACR’s Advocates for Arthritis event held each September. Click on “Advocates for Arthritis” on the Advocacy page for more information.
- Most members of Congress are not aware that rheumatologists receive years of additional training to provide expert care to patients with arthritis and rheumatic conditions. What better way to show your legislator the specialized care you provide your patients than inviting him or her to visit your office? Click on “Toolkit” on the Advocacy page for a sample invitation letter you can use as a guide or, for more assistance, contact the ACR Government Affairs Department at [email protected].
- Members of Congress are using social media for a number of purposes: publicizing town halls and local events, soliciting constituent opinions, or announcing developments on legislation. By becoming a member of your legislator’s social network, you can stay current on the latest happenings and express your opinions on issues affecting your district and the rheumatology community.
2. Tips for Communicating with Your Member of Congress
- Be prepared. The key to influencing the people who represent you is showing them that you are a well-informed, committed constituent. Members of Congress are extremely busy people. Be clear that you are a rheumatology professional, a constituent, and you are contacting the office to discuss an issue affecting the rheumatology community. Before meeting or calling your legislator, make sure you are familiar with the ACR’s legislative priorities and positions by clicking on “Legislative Priorities” from the Advocacy page.
- Be a good source of information. To build a relationship with your member of Congress you need to be a source of credible information. Understand and be able to discuss both sides of the issues. You will gain credibility if you can both educate and persuade.
- Personalize your message. Congressional offices can be inundated with requests and information. Sharing your personal experiences with your member of Congress and his or her staff will ensure a personal connection to your issue.
- Be polite. Communicate with your representative clearly, concisely, and with respect. Even if you are angry or frustrated, be sure to use a polite tone and appropriate language.
- Ask for a response. Ask directly and politely for the legislator’s views and position on the issue and what he or she plans to do about it.
- Follow up. Whether you make a phone call, write a letter, or have an in-person meeting, make sure to send a follow-up note to your representative or staffer. Be sure to thank him or her for the time, include the issue(s) you discussed, and reiterate your request(s). Click on “Toolkit” on the Advocacy page for a sample follow-up letter you can use as a guide.
3. Ways to Get Your Patients Involved
Patients are constituents too, and have personal stories to share about the frustration of insurance denials, restrictions in Medicare reimbursements, and the lack of research funding in rheumatology. Patients can sign up to receive “Calls to Action” by e-mailing [email protected].