#KillTheBill: Guide to Meeting with Your Senators

You can download this guide here.

We expect that the American Health Care Act (AHCA) will be voted on in the Senate by June 29th.

This proposed legislation will decimate healthcare for people living with HIV and other chronic conditions. Read about its impact on people living with HIV here.

It’s important to schedule a meeting with your Senators as soon as possible) to discuss the importance of the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid for people living with HIV. 

Notes for Scheduling Your Meeting:

  • Contact your Senators to schedule your meetings today
  • Senate is in recess July 3-9 and for the entire month of August, meaning they are in their home states.
  • However, DO NOT WAIT until they are home to meet with them. All members of Congress have health staffers who can meet with you now. You can then meet with the Senators themselves when they are home in district.
  • Schedules are likely to be very busy, so call as soon as possible to set up a meeting!
  • You can find your Senators local phone numbers through their websites (you can find links to these through com if you don’t know their names)
  • Be as flexible as possible with day/time, as getting an appointment can be difficult.
  • Plan to bring a group of advocates. Senators are statewide, so you can bring any resident of the state to a meeting with a Senator or Senator’s staff.
  • Sample script for setting up your visit:

Hello, my name is ________. I am a constituent of Senator ______ and I am (choose one: a person living with HIV/with organization ______/an advocate for people living with HIV). There are XXX people living with HIV in the state of [name of state]. I have a group of constituents who would like to meet with Senator _____ to discuss our concerns about healthcare and the proposed American Health Care Act as soon as possible. Can we find a time early next week?

Note: They may be able to transfer you to the appropriate staff to schedule you immediately, or they may need to call you back. If you leave a phone number, have them repeat it back to you.

If they are able to schedule the meeting: Thank you so much. Who will we be meeting with? (get name and title). We look forward to meeting with you on [day] at [time].  

Preparing for the Meeting: 

Note: Most meetings are only about 15 minutes long, whether you are meeting with the Member or their staff. This means your group has to be organized and prepared to get your points across.

  • Once you have an appointment set, get your group together and plan to show up for it! Make sure to note the appointment on your calendar and set a reminder for yourself. The day of the appointment, make sure you arrive at least 20 minutes early so you have ample time to find parking and the meeting location. If you are late, you will most likely lose your appointment time, and they may not want to reschedule you.
  • Plan what you are going to talk about (healthcare for people living with HIV) for the purposes of setting up the meeting. Eg: how repeal of the Affordable Care Act and attacks on Medicaid will affect you or your loved ones. At this link (pwn-usa.org/ahca-talking-points) we have talking points for use at your meeting about the potential impact of the American Health Care Act for people living with HIV, if it passes.
  • Schedule a preparation meeting or phone call for your group to go over the talking points and who will share personal stories about how the AHCA and changes to Medicaid will affect them. If you need a conference call line to use for preparation, please contact us to let us know what time and date you will need it and we will set one up for your group.
  • Jot down any questions you have for the Senator. By the end of your meeting, you definitely want to ask them: Can we count on you to oppose the American Health Care Act?

 Do your research:

  • Know your Senator’s record before you go. Did they vote for or against the president’s cabinet appointments? Which ones? Did they vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act? Also, check which committees they sit on. Committee information is available on their website.
  • Familiarize yourself with any public statements they have made on healthcare.
  • Make sure to either thank them for votes you agree with, or question them about why they cast votes that you disagree with.
  • Understand what your Senator is (and is not) responsible for. Since you will have only a few minutes, stay focused.
  • Decide what each member of the group attending will cover.
  • Practice your talking points.

At the meeting:

  • Bring your own talking points jotted down on a piece of paper so you don’t miss anything.
  • TIP: Share personal anecdotes to illustrate why the policies you are advocating for or against are so important to you. While it’s always good to know facts and statistics, lawmakers already have access to plenty of those. What they are interested in hearing about from you is how the issue affects their constituents personally. For example, when talking about health care, your personal story about not being able to get coverage before the Affordable Care Act, and thus not having access to the life-saving medications you needed, will be more powerful than simply citing a statistic that up to 30 million people could lose coverage if the ACA is repealed. They already know that. You don’t need to disclose more than you are comfortable sharing, but the more personal the story, the more powerful it is- whether you are speaking with the Member of Congress or their staff. Keep your story short and to the point.
  • If you are asked a question that you don’t know the answer to, don’t make something up! Let them know you will look into it and get back to them. That provides a perfect opportunity to follow up with an email address
  • Bring fact sheets about your issue to leave with the Member or their staff. Fact sheets are downloadable so you can print them and leave them.
  • Write down their response and/or any commitments they make. You can use that to hold them accountable later if they do something differently from what they say.
  • In closing: Have a clear ask. Can we count on you to oppose the American Health Care Act?
  • Get the business card with email address of the Senator and their staff member you should send follow-up questions or materials to. Often the Member will have a staff person who works with specific issues, so make sure you are sending any follow-up materials to the right person.

After Your Meeting:

  • Send a follow-up email thanking the Senator and/or their staff for their time and attention. Reiterate the issue(s) you spoke about and your ask.
  • If you have good (short) resources to share on the issue, especially if you were not able to bring them with you to the meeting, link or attach them to the email.
  • Continue to call the Senators office (in D.C. and locally) to advocate for your issue(s). If the Senator has expressed support for your issue, hold them to that, especially when it’s close to time for a vote in Congress. If the Senator expresses opposition to your issue, or says they are undecided, try to call every single day and continue to reiterate your position and make your ask.