Families USA produced the Public Policy Toolkit for Enrollment Assisters to give assisters and others the knowledge and tactics they need to be effective advocates.

Public officials, particularly officials who are elected to represent a group of constituents, are interested in hearing from the public about issues that matter to them. Below we discuss some pointers to keep in mind when reaching out to any public official. 

  • When contacting a public official, whether at the federal or state level, remember to be concise, persuasive, and courteous.

  • It is also important to learn how to harness the power of people’s personal health care stories. These stories provide emotional resonance and breathe life into issues in ways that other methods—like sharing statistics—cannot. They also help demystify complex topics by illustrating how a problem affects real people—including the constituents of elected officials.

    As an enrollment assister, you hear these stories first-hand. For more information on how to use consumer stories in your advocacy work, see the Families USA Story Bank Toolkit.

  • Finally, remember to relax! There’s no reason be nervous when communicating with a public official. No matter what level of government they serve in, officials are public servants who hold their office only because you and/or your community put them there. Your public servants and their staff appreciate hearing from constituents about issues that matter to them. You don’t have to be a subject matter expert to talk about an issue that matters to you!

TIP   You don’t have to be a subject matter expert to talk about an issue that matters to you.

The sections that follow provide a few step-by-step examples of how to communicate with your state and federal representatives. While these examples focus on reaching out to elected officials, not officials who work in government agencies, many of the same guidelines apply. 

Calling an Elected Official

Here is a sample phone call with a representative’s office:

Staffer: Thank you for calling Representative X’s office, how may I help you?
Caller: Hello, my name is (your name) from (City and State), and I help consumers enroll in health coverage.
Staffer: Great, what can I do for you?
Caller: As a concerned member of the representative’s district and someone who sees first-hand how important it is that people have health coverage, I wanted to express my support for additional funding for navigator programs. (Insert information on why you support additional funding, in addition to why it is of concern to the community.
Staffer: Thank you for sharing your concerns with us. I will relay your comments to the legislator.
Caller: I appreciate you listening and sharing my thoughts with Representative X. Have a great day.

Writing to a Lawmaker

When writing to your elected official using email or postal mail, follow these tips. A persuasive letter like the one below does three key things:

  • outlines the concern at hand 
  • explains why it is important to the community 
  • requests an action from the representative

Dear Representative:

I am writing to you because I am concerned about funding for health insurance outreach and enrollment workers. 

As you know, getting children and adults enrolled and keeping them enrolled is vital to the health of our state and our economy. Healthy kids learn better, and parents with healthy kids are less likely to get sick and take time off of work to stay home with their sick children. 

Cutting outreach and enrollment funding has a direct impact on the people who most need assistance with getting covered. Reducing funding for this assistance will decrease the number of people enrolled in health insurance, increase the number of people who use the emergency room as their last resort, and increase costs to our health care system overall. This will result in cuts to state funding, and then to cuts in health care for seniors, working families, people with disabilities, and children.

As your constituent, I urge you to support funding for outreach and enrollment workers to help them reach uninsured constituents in (this state). Helping consumers apply for coverage and get the care they need makes the health care system stronger for us all. 

Sincerely,

(A Concerned Citizen)

Requesting a Meeting

Every public official’s office handles appointments differently. To set up a meeting in an official’s state office or their office in Washington, D.C., the first step is to call and ask how to officially request a meeting. 

If the public official is unavailable, request a meeting with a member of his or her staff. Staffers communicate regularly with the public official and often have a deeper understanding of policy issues. 

Working with the Media

Officials at all levels of government keep up with local newspapers and news programs. Writing a letter to the editor in your local or regional newspaper is a great way to get your representative’s attention. 

Families USA has a wealth of resources on how to work with the media. Contact us for tips on writing a letter to the editor at assisters@familiesusa.org