Congress August Recess Toolkit
Congress’ August recess is a critical time for advocacy and that’s particularly true this year. Members of Congress are in the midst of crafting legislation aimed at addressing the wide-spread impacts of the pandemic, including many priorities that would have important impacts on health coverage, access, equity, and affordability. When members of Congress return to DC in September, they will quickly get to work on a final Reconciliation package to address these issues. It is up to us to ensure the health care priorities not only remain in the package, but that these policies are bold and create meaningful change for families. During the whole month of August, members of Congress will be home in their states and districts to hear from constituents, and it is time for us to weigh in!
August provides unique opportunities for advocacy. Members of Congress are more likely to be hosting town halls, participating in constituent-facing events, and engaging on social media. We have created tools that you can use to connect with Members of Congress to help ensure they deliver on their promise to create a more affordable, equitable, and accessible health care system.
- What Do We Need Congress to Hear in August?
- Action Steps and Supporting Resources
- Speak up at a Town Hall event/Talk to your member of Congress directly
- Alert the media to increase public pressure
- Engage your Member on social media
What Congress Needs to Hear This August:
Now is the time to make sure Congress hears from us: Health care is too expensive in the United States and people are suffering. It’s time to deliver on their health care promises to:
- Lower the cost of prescription drugs, including giving Medicare the power to negotiate prices.
- Ensure that older adults and people with disabilities can get the oral health care, vision care, and hearing care we all need to stay healthy through Medicare.
- Make health insurance affordable for everyone in America, no matter their income or what state they live in by creating new insurance options for low-income adults in states that haven’t expanded Medicaid and permanently lowering the cost of premiums in the individual market.
Action Steps and Supporting Resources
Speak up at a Town Hall event/Engage your member of Congress directly
- Find a town hall event (virtual or in-person if you are comfortable) using townhallproject.com. You can also invite a Member of Congress to an event you or your organization is hosting.
- Never been to a town hall before? Use this guide to help you prepare.
- Most importantly, ask questions. These will help you elevate critical health care issues during the event:
|Lowering Drug Prices||Too many people in [your state] cannot afford the medications they need to stay healthy. Drug companies have increased the prices of over 1,000 drugs just since January. (Your state’s) families are counting on you to stop these abuses and lower the price of prescription drugs. The single most effective policy to address this issue would be to allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices. Will you vote to lower prescription drug costs for (your state’s) families, and allow Medicare to negotiate lower prices?|
|Adding Dental, Vision, Hearing to Medicare||Thousands of older adults and people with disabilities in [your state] pay into Medicare their whole working lives and yet it completely leaves out the mouth, the eyes, and the ears. It’s no surprise eight out of ten voters want to see this problem fixed, especially when not being able to afford care has such critical implications for their overall health and job prospects and can come with social stigma. What will you do when you get back to D.C. to ensure that Medicare enrollees can afford dental, vision, and hearing care?|
|Ensuring Coverage Affordability||Health insurance is unaffordable for too many people in America, but our health should not depend on our wealth. What will you do to ensure that people in [your state] and across the country can afford their premiums? Will you take action to ensure that people in every state can access affordable health insurance?|
|Closing Medicaid Coverage Gap||Many states have refused to expand Medicaid, regardless of the many incentives offered by the federal government, (for AL, FL, GA, MO, MS, NC, SD, SC, TN, TX, WI, WY: including here in [your state]). The state you live in shouldn’t mean our health depends on our wealth so will you ensure that people in every state have access to affordable health insurance – including a new solution for states that have not expanded Medicaid?
Black women are twice as likely to die in childbirth and the US’s rates of pregnancy-related complications are among the highest in developed countries. In 2019, among reproductive-age women below the poverty line in states that had not expanded Medicaid, 29% were black women and 33% were Latina women who were uninsured and without any pathway to affordable coverage. Research shows expanding Medicaid makes it less likely a person will die in childbirth, especially for black women. Will you commit to helping expand access to Medicaid as an important step to address the maternal health crisis?
Alert the media to increase public pressure
- Members of the media aren’t always aware of every issue being debated by Congress. If you raise this issue with them it can result in Members of Congress being asked about their position on key issues and can elevate the profile of your own organization too. Use this easy template to contact members of the media.
Engage your Member of Congress on social media
- Find your Member of Congress on Twitter using these lists of Senators’ and Representatives’ handles
- Use the template social media posts below to get their attention on key priorities. Want to do more on social media? Use our Thursday 30 Toolkit for more social media content on all of these issues
|Lowering Drug Prices||Too many people in [your state] cannot afford the medications they need to stay healthy. [insert percentage from page 2 of this report below] – of [insert state residents eg. Alabamans] report not following doctor’s orders on a #prescription due to #Rx prices. [@yoursenator], it’s time to allow #drugpricing negotiation.
|Adding Dental, Vision, Hearing to Medicare||[@your member of Congress], it’s time to add #DentalCoverage to #Medicare. Our health shouldn’t depend on our wealth, but that will only be possible when #OralHealth care is covered too. #MouthsinMedicare
|Ensuring Coverage Affordability||[@yourmember of Congress], our concern if we get sick should be getting better, not how to pay for it. We all need affordable health insurance, no matter our income or what state we live in. Congress made health care on the marketplace more affordable earlier this year – keep it that way.
|Closing Medicaid Coverage Gap||[@yourmember of Congress], Our concern when we get sick should be getting better, not how to pay for it. We all need affordable health insurance, no matter our income or what state we live in. It’s time for solutions for new states that haven’t expanded Medicaid.
Still looking for more? Use these resources to learn more about the key policies Congress is considering. Feel free to crib from them or use them in your own advocacy.
On lowering the cost of prescription drugs:
- In every U.S. state, a disturbingly high percentage of people face the impossible choice of skipping or rationing medications so they can afford other basic needs. Read this fact sheet to learn about how the high cost of prescription drugs harms people in your state.
- Want to take action to lower the outrageous cost of prescription drugs? Use our drug pricing mobilization toolkit.
On Medicare dental coverage:
- Older adults and people with disabilities in every single state need Medicare oral health coverage to afford dental care. Learn more with our state specific factsheets.
- Adding dental coverage to Medicare is an incredibly popular and bipartisan issue with voters. Learn more about the recent poll results from YouGov.
On making health insurance affordable:
- Gaps in health insurance are associated with hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 deaths and cases all across the country. Learn how these gaps effect your state/county.
- Many of the provisions Congress is considering now build on the foundation of the American Rescue Plan. Learn more in our brief: The American Rescue Plan Makes the Greatest Improvements to Health Coverage and Affordability in More than a Decade