Until the introduction of the Sustainable Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Services in the Home Act (HR 1406, S 3012), I had never been compelled to contact my federal representatives. Initially, the prospect of petitioning government officials was daunting. If, like me, you recognize the urgent need for permanent legislation that would allow patients to receive in-home cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation services under Medicare, but aren’t sure where to start your advocacy, please keep reading. As I prepared to contact my representatives, I did a bit of research to ensure that I was approaching them as effectively and efficiently as possible.
How to Reach Your Representatives
Each point below will help you best prepare your main points and give you a sense of how your interaction might go.
1. Identify who your state representatives are, prioritize outreach to Senators and/or House Representatives, especially for the district you live in/the districts in your state and the patient population you service in CR/PR, and especially congress members on the subcommittees for health or energy/commerce. Individuals with a seat on these committees are most likely to discuss this bill during Congressional meetings.
2. Call the offices of your representatives. You will likely be connected to a staffer who works for that congressperson. Take note of the name and email of the staffer you spoke to. See below for pointers on developing your talking points.
3. Draft and send a letter to the office of your representative. You may reference the conversation you had with the staffer and copy them on the email. See below for tips and examples that can help you in drafting your letter.
Drafting your Talking Points
Government representatives work for the people. When you address them, remember that you as an industry expert are not only speaking for yourself but are representing cardiac patients. I’m sure you know of patients who had to forego cardiac rehab, maybe because the nearest physical program was inaccessible. If that was the case, they could have had access under the circumstances this bill presents.
It is important to keep your conversation/correspondence focused. Taking time to organize the main points you would like to address can help ensure you convey a strong and concise message that underscores the significance of this legislation. I encourage you to use the notes below as a starting point when drafting your talking points.
- Be sure to repeatedly reference the bill number when asking for their support.
- Know your district and the district of your patients. Be prepared to inform the representative who oversees your and your patients' district that they are responsible for the population you are referencing in your conversation. To identify your and your patients’ districts, visit the US Census Bureau website.
- As an industry expert or perhaps, as a cardiac patient yourself, you likely have personal testimonials or patient stories you can share illustrating why this bill is important. Pick the most compelling story to share.
- I encourage you to make note of the districts in your region and the number of cardiac rehab facilities in each. That information can help reinforce the need for virtual cardiac rehab amongst their constituents and compel the representative to co-sponsor the bill.
- To find this information, I would encourage you to check your local AACVPR state chapter’s website. If you plan on advocating in person, OR if you were sending an email or letter in the mail, displaying this information as a visual can be helpful.
- How you might use this information: when I went to the Hill, I shared this information in the form of a map with the staffers I met. It was extremely helpful to drive my point home when I could point to the map and say “You have patients who live in these open spaces who can’t drive 3 days a week 1-2 hours to access cardiac rehab”.
- Follow up! Don’t hesitate to email or call that staffer periodically (weekly or biweekly, if possible) to inquire as to the status of your ask from your representative.
A few months ago, we shared a few sample letters on our website specific to the House Bill HR 1406. Below, is the letter I sent to my representatives with a few added notes to help you along. Feel free to use it as inspiration in writing your letter!
In this letter, you will see helpful notes, bullet points outlining what to mention, and highlighted segments offering you the opportunity to customize and paraphrase in your own voice.
Directly below is the map I referenced above outlining the CR sites by congressional districts in my state of Virginia. I found this to be a very helpful tool in my conversations.