Next month, members of Congress return to their states and districts for the August recess. This offers an important opportunity for ACR/ARP members to engage with their elected officials.
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Advocacy is vital to the mission of the College, and now is the perfect time to take the next step and start a dialogue with your members of Congress. Here are some ideas:
1. Seek out your representative at public events. Elected officials attend these events to be seen and to meet their constituents—especially during district work periods. In August, they will likely spend a lot of time out and about in the community.
To figure out where they might be, check your legislator’s social media account or website for information about public events. These in-person opportunities can be a great way to introduce yourself and start a conversation about your role in the community and rheumatology policy needs. Build on that foundation in the future through a formal Hill meeting or communications with appropriate staff.
2. Make a phone call or send an email through the ACR Legislative Action Center. As a constituent expert, you can serve as a valuable resource for your members of Congress.
You can help educate policy staff about how rheumatology-related policies affect your practice and patients. This could include how you serve the patient community and any access issues they may be facing, such as wait times. You could talk about difficulty in hiring due to the workforce shortage, or the impact of stagnant Medicare reimbursement rates. You could also describe how COVID-19 has impacted rheumatology and the role you have served in the pandemic.
3. Ask for a local meeting, with help from our In-District advocacy guide. If you have more to say than can easily be covered in a phone call or email exchange, try to schedule an in-person meeting at the district office or invite them to visit your practice. If your member of Congress isn’t available, you can meet with their staff—often staffers are more familiar with specific issues, such as healthcare policy.
If a meeting isn’t available while your representatives or senators are home for August recess (set to begin July 29 for the House and August 5 for the Senate), stay in contact with staff at your local representative’s office to schedule a meeting during the next break, likely around the November election or near the end of the year.
We need help informing—and in some cases, changing—the views policymakers have about medical professions and specialties, such as rheumatology. As a constituent and a voter, you hold a considerable amount of power, and your experience and opinions should matter to your elected officials. Keeping your name and rheumatology issues in front of district staff might make all the difference if those issues make it to Capitol Hill for a hearing or a vote.
We hope that you will take these steps to start a dialogue and forge a relationship with those elected to represent you in Washington, D.C. Existing relationships that ACR/ARP members have in their states make our advocacy team’s work on Capitol Hill stronger and more effective.