While Congress Is Out, Invite a Legislator to a Meeting

July 27, 2015 10:10 am News Staff

Members of Congress may not be in their Washington, D.C., offices during the August recess, but the break provides an opportunity for family physicians to meet with them in person.

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With the AAFP's advocacy toolkit, physicians can make the most of a visit so legislators will go back to Washington educated about the issues that matter for family medicine.

AAFP President Robert Wergin, M.D., of Milford, Neb., meets frequently with legislators on Capitol Hill and in their local districts.

"Even though they are not in session, August is an ideal time to connect with members of Congress and let them know what our key issues are," Wergin said. "This is a time when they are in their district offices and welcome visits by their constituents."

Before proposing a meeting with your congressman or senator, it is important to find out about his or her political background with some quick research about party affiliation, committee membership, leadership positions, voting record on key issues, and any pertinent personal information. The AAFP's Bill Tracker makes it easy to research a legislator's voting history.

Then use a sample letter(cqrcengage.com) to request a meeting.

Meetings with legislators and their staff should involve more than asking them to sponsor or support a particular piece of legislation. Think of it as an exchange of information. The goal should be to educate legislators about the role family physicians play in medicine and to seek help with policy.

"I've met with my own legislators on several occasions and they appreciated the visits," Wergin said. "You can discuss issues you encounter in your practice and emphasize the importance of family medicine in a less hectic atmosphere. On top of that, you can offer to be a valuable local resource for current and pending health legislation."

The best way to stay on course during the meeting is to review the talking points about family medicine, the economic impact of family physicians and the importance of investing in primary care in the advocacy toolkit. The points will help guide conversations toward the important issues for your practice and family medicine as a whole.

If a legislator is unable to meet on the scheduled day, meeting with the office staff can be just as valuable because they will deliver your message directly to the legislator.

And make sure legislators leave with a business card or information that they can use when making a decision.

The day after a meeting, be sure to send a brief email to thank the legislators and staff. The message should reiterate key points and can include answers to any questions that came up during the meeting.

The AAFP asks family physicians to fill out a brief feedback form after meeting with a member of Congress or a staff member.

AAFP members can email the grassroots advocacy team at grassroots@aafp.org with questions about the process or for help with a presentation.