Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Modest Proposal: Make Some Noise!

From the president’s speech last night:

“More and more Americans pay their premiums, only to discover that their insurance company has dropped their coverage when they get sick, or won't pay the full cost of care. It happens every day.”

“As soon as I sign this bill, it will be against the law for insurance companies to drop your coverage when you get sick or water it down when you need it most.”

“Insurance executives don't do this because they are bad people. They do it because it's profitable. As one former insurance executive testified before Congress, insurance companies are not only encouraged to find reasons to drop the seriously ill; they are rewarded for it.”

“Now, I have no interest in putting insurance companies out of business. They provide a legitimate service, and employ a lot of our friends and neighbors. I just want to hold them accountable.”

Gee, I have an idea about what law needs to be amended to accomplish that.

This is the time to get the word out and to be heard. The president also said: “If you come to me with a serious set of proposals, I will be there to listen. My door is always open.” Hold him to his promise! Call, write, agitate, contact your Congressional representatives and the White House.

Here are some tips for doing so effectively, shamelessly plagarized from “How to Lobby Your Member of Congress,” Amnesty International,; and “How to Lobby Your Member of Congress,” American Civil Liberties Union,

Members of Congress rarely hear from their constituents on most issues. Sometimes hearing from a handful of concerned citizens will cause a Senator or Representative to pay attention to a particular issue and encourage him or her to vote the right way.

In general the more personal your lobbying contact is, the more effective it will be. While a personal discussion with a Member of Congress is most effective, a meeting or telephone conversation with one of his or her assistants is almost as good.

You do not need to be an expert on the issue to call or write your Member of Congress’ office. All you need to communicate is that you want the member to support or oppose a particular measure. When you call a Member’s office give your name and address and ask whomever takes your call to let the Member of Congress know that you favor or oppose something.

It is very important that you lobby both Members of Congress who may support your views and those who may not. Lobbying can change votes so it is critically important that you lobby those who disagree with you. Lobbying supporters provides them with evidence of support for their position and allows them to be more active in support of that position.

Remember that all contact is good! Start small, and then increase your activism as you gain experience.

• Write a letter. Letters are an important and effective way to introduce yourself and your purpose. A personal letter is much more effective than a form letter or postcard. Short handwritten letters are best, and always remember to be specific about the action you want your Member of Congress to take. Make sure to include your full address so they know you live in the district. Avoid petitions, as they are not as effective.

• Make a phone call. You can call your U.S. senator or representative by contacting the Capitol Hill switchboard at 1-202-224-3121. Once you are connected to the right office, ask to speak with the staff member who handles labor issues, and/or employee pension and benefits regulation. Clearly have in mind a specific request of your representative. If you are planning a visit, this is also the time to set up a meeting to discuss your request.

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