February 10 Washington Update
WASHINGTON UPDATE 2/10/12
Greetings from Washington. We hope to see some of you soon at the AMCHP conference.
F2F funding bill. As 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.
We now expect the bills to be introduced late next week (Feb. 17) or early the week of Feb. 27. (There is a congressional recess in between.) Prior to the introduction of the bills, Senator Menendez and Representative Pallone will be sending "Dear Colleague" letters to their fellow Members to solicit original cosponsors. It's always helpful if constituents alert the Members' staffers to such requests (they get many "Dear Colleagues" so they might need a push to respond). We will send these "Dear Colleague" letters to you as soon as they are available.
We know that some of you have already made efforts to get your Senators and Representatives to cosponsor the legislation. Please keep up the good work! We now have two House cosponsors - Reps. Langevin (D-RI) and Norton (D-DC) - and two Senate cosponsors - Senators Conrad (D-ND) and Bingaman (D-NM). We are hopeful that we will be able to get more, including Republicans, before and after the bill is introduced.
But we need your help! So, please, contact your Senators and Representatives if you have not already done so, and watch your in-boxes for forthcoming action alerts. Instructions for contacting your Members' offices are below.
Note that time is of the essence, since 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, the "doc fix" to sustain Medicare physician reimbursement levels, and other temporary laws. That bill is expected to be passed by end of this month, when the temporary extensions expire. For an article about the status and politics of these negations, see http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/its-deja-vu-as-congress-tackles-payroll-tax-cut-extension-again/2012/02/07/gIQAzGxfxQ_story.html?wprss=rss_business.
If you are coming to the AMCHP meeting, please try to visit with your Members of Congress. You can stop by at the Family Voices table to pick up materials to give Hill staffers about the F2F legislation.
Title V block grant. At the Family Voices table at the AMCHP conference, we will also have a "leave-behind" for Hill staffers that expresses Family Voices' support for adequate funding for the Title V block grant. Family Voices concurs with AMCHP in supporting an appropriation of $645 million for the block grant in FY 2013. This amount is the same as the block grant got last year, but in this political environment an appropriation of that amount would be considered an achievement.
Simplified insurance information for consumers. This week the administration announced new Affordable Care Act regulations that will make it easier for consumers to compare insurance policies and health plans. Every insurer/plan will have to provide to consumers a "Summary of Benefits and Coverage" following a particular format and a glossary of health insurance terminology at various points in time -- whenever consumers are choosing or renewing an insurance policy or health plan, when there are changes in the policy/plan, or upon demand. The rule goes into effect September 23 of this year. For more information, see http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/2011/08/labels08172011a.html.
Supreme Court amicus brief. Family Voices will be joining a number of other health and disability groups in an amicus ("friend of the court") brief to the Supreme Court on the issue of the Medicaid expansion mandated by the Affordable Care Act, which provides that all individuals with family incomes up to 133% of the Federal Poverty Level will be eligible for Medicaid beginning in 2014. The 26 states challenging the constitutionality of the ACA have argued that the Medicaid expansion unconstitutionally "coerces" states to implement the provision. The states have also challenged the ACA's mandate that individuals have health insurance, among other aspects of the law. The Supreme Court will be hearing oral arguments on the case in late March.
As always, please feel free to contact us with any questions.
Brooke Lehmann, MSW, Esq.
Janis Guerney, Esq.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR CONTACTING CONGRESS ABOUT F2F LEGISLATION:
Provided below are detailed instructions about how to contact the offices of your Members of Congress, what to say, and a sample email you can send to the relevant staffers. Attached is information you can email to them (a short "request and rationale," the actual bill to be introduced, and a fact sheet with national data about F2F activities). You should also provide information about your state's F2F activities, such as number of families/professionals served and family stories. Please be sure to copy or bcc: Brooke and me on any correspondence, and let us know about any feedback you get.
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' offices. If 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/say. Be 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, and 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.]
[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, email@example.com) or Rachelle Pierre-Mathieu in Representative Pallone's office (225-4671), firstname.lastname@example.org).
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.