Summer Recess Means It’s Time to Talk to Your Member of Congress About PH

August is a good month for healthcare advocacy in the U.S.

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by Mike Naple |

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School might already be in session for students in some classrooms across the country, but summer recess for members of Congress is just heating up!

Every August, members of Congress leave the sweltering swamp of Washington to spend time in their home districts meeting with constituents, advocacy groups, and other stakeholders. Several activities are held where you can hear from your congressional representative — perhaps at a virtual town hall, a local fair or festival, or in their district office.

A member of Congress I worked for really liked ice cream. During an August recess in pre-pandemic times, we put our staffer heads together to recommend the congressman do a tour of ice cream shops throughout his district. The trips offered the congressman the chance to meet with small business owners who were his constituents and hear their concerns, while also partaking in a cold, sweet treat on a hot summer day. He also got to hear from other constituents in the shop to enjoy two scoops of happiness in a waffle cone.

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Policy is people

I talk and write a lot about the role advocacy organizations and storytellers play in the policy-making process. I believe that policy is people, meaning that federal and state policy decisions that happen under dome-covered Capitol buildings and statehouses directly affect people and the quality of their everyday lives. In my mind, this is especially true for disabled and chronically ill people who regularly depend on access to healthcare services, made easier or more difficult to afford by the policy decisions of elected officials.

Drawing on my professional experience in various federal and state government roles, I think about advocacy as two forces on opposite sides of a conference table trying to move each other toward a preferred outcome. As a pulmonary hypertension (PH) patient, I try to use my skills and experience to advocate on behalf of the entire PH community. It’s been a fun and challenging process to evolve from someone who works either for an elected official or a strategist for an advocacy organization to being an advocate who shares his own story to urge lawmakers to take action.

I don’t always get to the table the same way I used to, but that hasn’t prevented me from helping advance policies to improve the lives of fellow PHighters. During the COVID-19 pandemic, as office meetings, family dinners, and birthday parties went virtual, representatives in Congress had to figure out how they could conduct the people’s business in a safe and productive manner.

Suddenly, the table in that congressional conference room became windows on laptop screens as representatives held virtual meetings and events. As a result, advocacy groups had to figure out how to move more of their outreach programs online to ensure people still had access to stay engaged. The good news: Creating more avenues for people to advocate digitally lowers the barriers of participation and makes advocacy more accessible to everyone.

Patient advocacy in Congress

If you’re looking to dip your toe into the advocacy pool for the first time, you can’t pick a better month than August — especially this year, ahead of the midterm elections in November. I encourage you to reach out to your congressional representative to seek opportunities to engage, either virtually or in person, depending on your comfort level. Nonprofit organizations like the Pulmonary Hypertension Association offer tools and resources for folks in the community who want to advocate, both digitally and in person.

During this year’s recess, I wouldn’t be surprised if you heard members of Congress in your state talking about the Inflation Reduction Act. This legislation includes measures to lower healthcare costs, make prescription drug medications more affordable for seniors on Medicare, and invest in domestic clean energy production to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change.

As a disabled person with a serious pulmonary disease, I’m glad to see Congress take action on these fronts. For example, the Inflation Reduction Act extends some tax credits that were set to expire at the end of the year, to ease the costs of healthcare premiums for millions of people enrolled in Affordable Care Act marketplace coverage. If you contact your representative or their staff, ask them how the Inflation Reduction Act will improve the quality of life for people in your community.

Your federal representatives need to hear from you. This August recess, I’ll be advocating for Congress to pass the Safe Step Act and urging lawmakers to revisit new investments in home healthcare to help patients and caregivers in the PH community.

Are you contacting your representatives this month? Let me know in the comments below!

Follow Mike on Twitter: @mnaple.

Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.


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