February 03, 2012

February 3 Washington Update


Greetings from Washington.  Once again, this report will focus on legislation to get Family-to-Family Health Information Centers funded beyond FY 2012. 

F2F funding billAs explained previously, Senator Menendez (D-NJ) and Rep. Pallone (D-NJ) plan to introduce legislation to extend funding for F2Fs through FY 2015 at the current level of $5 million per year. 

It is our hope that we can get this legislation incorporated into the must-pass "extenders" bill under negotiation to extend the payroll-tax holiday, unemployment benefits, and a number of other tax and Medicare provisions, including the "doc fix" to sustain Medicare physician reimbursement levels.  That bill is expected to be passed by end of this month, when a temporary extension of these provisions expires.

So time is running out, and it would be extremely helpful to our cause if we can get bipartisan sponsorship for this legislation before it is introduced, which should be soon. 

If you have not already done so, please contact your congressional delegations now, particularly if they are on the list below, and ask them to become original cosponsors of the Menendez bill in the Senate or the Pallone bill in the House.  (Since the legislation has not yet been introduced, there are not yet bill numbers.)  Focus your energies on the Members you think are most likely to be supportive.

Provide your state's Members of Congress with information about your state's F2F projects, trainings, publications, community partnerships, and other activities, as well as family stories that demonstrate its value to families of children/youth with special health care needs, professionals who serve them, and policy makers. 

If you are a family member/professional helped by an F2F, or partner of an F2F, please describe how the F2F has helped you or your patients/clients/members.  These personal stories are very effective!

Provided below are a list of key Members of Congress and instructions about how to contact their offices, what to say if you call, and a sample email you can send to the relevant staffers. 

Please be sure to let us know about any communications you have with congressional offices. (Our contact information is below.)

Visits to DC.   If you will be coming to the AMCHP conference (or visiting DC for any other reason), please try to make an appointment with the health staffers for some or all of your state's Members of Congress so that you can educate them about the importance of both F2Fs and the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant.   Also, please let us know about these appointments and any feedback you get. 

As always, please feel free to contact either one of us if you have any questions.  

Brooke Lehmann, MSW, Esq.

Janis Guerney, Esq.


KEY MEMBERS of CONGRESS to CONTACT (conferees, leadership, Finance, and House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee members):  


All those listed are House members unless "Sen." appears before their name.


AZ - Sen. Kyl

AR - Ross

CA - Becerra, Waxman, Pelosi , Capps

DE - Sen. Carper

FL - Sen. Bill Nelson

GA - Tom Price, Gingrey

ID - Sen. Crapo

IL - Shimkus, Schakowsky

IA - Sen. Grassley

KS - Sen. Roberts

KY - Sen. McConnell, Whitfield, Guthrie

LA - Cassidy

ME - Sen. Snowe

MD - Sen. Cardin, Van Hollen

MA - Sen. Kerry

MI - Sen. Stabenow, Sander Levin, Camp, Upton, Rogers, Dingell

MT - Sen. Baucus

NV - Sen. Reid

NJ -- Lance

NM - Sen. Bingaman

NY - Sen Schumer, Hayworth, Tom Reed, Towns, Engel

NC - Sen. Burr, Ellmers, Myrick

ND - Sen. Conrad [already agreed to cosponsor!!!]

OH - Boehner, Latta

OK - Sen. Coburn

OR - Sen. Wyden, Walden

PA - Sen. Casey, Schwartz, Pitts, Murphy

RI - Sen. Jack Reed

SD - Sen. Thune

TN - Blackburn

TX - Sen. Cornyn, Brady, Burgess, Barton, Gonzalez

UT - Sen. Hatch, Matheson

VA - Cantor

WA - Sen. Cantwell, McMorris Rodgers

WV - Sen. Rockefeller

WI - Baldwin

WY - Sen. Barrasso, Sen. Enzi


If no one from your state is on this list, you should feel free to contact your state's delegation anyway.


NOTE:  Keep in mind any lobbying restrictions to which you are subject, which may necessitate that you call or write on your own behalf (using your personal email account and contact information), not in your capacity as a representative of your F2F.

How to contact Members' officesIf you're not sure who your own Representative is, you can enter your zip code on the upper right side of www.house.gov.  To find your Senators' names, go to www.senate.gov and click on "Senators" in the upper left.

You can reach your Senators' or Representatives' offices through the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121.   Ask the switchboard to connect you to the Member's office.  Once connected, ask the receptionist for the name of the staffer who handles health matters and ask to speak with them.  Leave a voice-mail message with your phone number and/or email address if you cannot get through.  If you do speak to them, you should verify their email address and follow-up with an email.  

What to write/sayBe sure to state that you are a constituent if you are calling one of your Senators or if you live in the district of the Representative you are calling.  If you are a constituent and are emailing, provide your home address.  If you are not a constituent, mention that you are calling about a statewide F2F that serves the Member's constituents. 

If you are a family member or professional helped by an F2F, or a partner of an F2F, describe how the F2F has helped you or your patients/clients/members.  Personal stories are very effective!

See the sample message below for more details about what to say or write.

Miscellaneous.  You might want to find out a little more about your Members before contacting their offices -- such as their political party, what part of the state they are from, their special issues.  If you know the Representative's/Senator's name, you can visit Representatives' websites by going to www.memberlastname.house.gov, and Senators' websites by going to www.memberlastname.senate.gov.  (If it is a common last name, you may need to add the first name.)  Local offices will be listed so you can see what part of the state they are from.  The website usually includes a bio that sometimes has useful information in it. 

Below is a sample note.


Sample note to congressional staffers 

[Please be sure to change text in brackets as appropriate, and feel free to edit as you see fit.]

As applicable:

[Thanks for talking with me about funding for Family-to-Family Health Information Centers (F2F HICs).  OR

I wanted to follow up on the phone message I left earlier about Family-to-Family Health Information Centers (F2F HICs).  OR 

I am writing to you about the Family-to-Family Health Information Center (F2F HIC) in our state.]

[As we discussed,] I am very concerned about the future of our state's F2F HIC, which helps families of children with special health care needs (disabilities or chronic illnesses) in navigating the complex and confusing health care system, and accessing benefits their children need through Medicaid, SCHIP, private insurance or other sources.  As the parent of a child with special health care needs [name condition if you wish], I can tell you how important that assistance can be.

[Briefly, describe how the F2F helped you or a client/patient.]

Funding for the federal grant program that funds F2F HICs runs out at the end of FY 2012.  As it is, the state's F2F HICs receives only $95,700 annually. But, without these federal funds, the [NAME OF STATE] F2F HIC will ...[have to shut its doors, cut back on staff, reduce outreach...WHATEVER WOULD HAPPEN TO THE F2F IN YOUR STATE.]

Thankfully, Senator Menendez and Representative Pallone plan to introduce a bill to try to ensure that these services will continue beyond the end of this fiscal year for all of the families in need of them. This bill will represent a very straight-forward request to simply extend the funding another three years -- the funding level will remain the same, simply the date will change. We are now working to try to get as much congressional support for this bill as possible before its introduction.

However, time is of the essence! Our very strong hope is that the Senator and Representative will introduce their respective bills with several additional original co-sponsors and that the bill will be considered during the conference discussion currently underway regarding the payroll tax cuts and Medicare physician payments.

We would greatly appreciate it if [Senator/Representative ___] would consider being an original cosponsor of this bill and would communicate that support to Michael Barnard in Senator Menendez's office (224-4744, michael_barnard@menendez.senate.gov) or Rachelle Pierre-Mathieu in Representative Pallone's office (225-4671), rachelle.pierre-mathieu@mail.house.gov).

We know that this is a time of austerity and we appreciate the sacrifices that we must all make given that reality. However, it is also a time when our health care system is becoming more and more confusing to those who must make use of it for already complex and life-threatening needs. We believe that the families who are served by the F2F HICs deserve this investment and that their children will be better off because of it.

Please feel free to contact me with any additional questions or concerns.

Thank you for your time.