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We Killed Obamacare Repeal. What Can People With HIV Do Next?

August 10, 2017

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We Killed Repeal. What's Next?

We did it! Through people power, we killed the efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act! At least for now, and just by one vote. We have lots of work ahead of us.

All members of Congress are home for the August recess. They'll be in district hosting town halls, public events, and meeting with their constituents. When they come back in September, they'll be voting on a number of pieces of legislation, as well as the federal budget. The Republican fight to dismantle the social safety net, including health care, funding for Medicaid and food stamps, is not over. Will you take the pledge to be active during #ResistanceRecess to #ProtectOurCare and the #HIVBudget?

What you can do:

  • Familiarize yourself with the voting record of your members of Congress. Check out how your Representative and Senators voted on the various versions of the health care bills here: House vote on American Health Care Act and Senate votes on 3 versions of ACA repeal. You will want to thank legislators who voted against repeal, and let those who voted in favor of it know how you feel.
  • Figure out if you are in the district of a member of the appropriations committee. This is the committee that makes decisions on budget priorities. (Still not sure who represents you in Congress? Find out here.) You can find all the members of the House Appropriations Committee here and the members of the full Senate Committee on Appropriations here.
    • Be aware that there are many subcommittees of the Appropriations Committees in both houses of Congress. That means that your members of Congress may or may not be directly involved with budgeting for the issues you are most interested in. You can find subcommittee members from the page linked above for the House, or on this page for the Senate.
    • If your Representative and/or Senators are part of their Appropriations Committee, be sure to know which subcommittee they serve on, and hit hard on issues addressed by those subcommittees (if relevant). Health & Human Services is a big target this month (see issue resources for more).
  • Check out these helpful videos from Indivisible for tips on how to maximize your influence during the August recess!


Issue Resources

While there are a great many issues that affect us collectively and individually, PWN-USA has identified four key areas with the potential to cause big impact to people living with HIV and our community: health care, budget, the domestic HIV program and the social safety net, which includes specific programs such as SNAP (food stamps), housing assistance, social security, Medicaid and Medicare, and others.

Find background, talking points and additional resources on these issues here.

You can find some talking points from MoveOn and allied organizations on other important issues here.

Ways to Take Action & Resources to Do It

Find Local Events

Many members of Congress use recess as an opportunity to connect with and hear from constituents at home. In fact, that's exactly what they are supposed to do. You can check these listings of events to see if there is something already planned in your area:

If Your Senator Is Holding a Town Hall or Making a Public Appearance at an Event, Plan to Show Up and "Bird-Dog" Them

What is bird-dogging? Basically, the goal of bird-dogging is to compel your elected officials (in this case, Senators), to answer questions publicly in front of their constituents, voters, and the media. Bird-dogging is fun and easy! Just show up at local events and make sure you are ready to ask them tough questions on the issues that matter most to you. Quick tips when bird-dogging:

  • Arrive at the event early
  • Don't wear signs or clothing that give you away -- you might not be called on to ask your question
    • Note: you can always wear a T-shirt under a jacket or sweatshirt and take off a layer later once you've asked your question!
  • Be prepared to talk briefly about how the issue you're addressing (e.g., budget priorities, health care, funding for programs for people with disabilities, etc.) affect you or your loved ones.
  • Be prepared with a specific Yes or No question: e.g.,
    • Can I count on you to vote to protect Medicaid funding from cuts?
    • Can I count on you to work in a bipartisan way to strengthen and improve the Affordable Care Act?
    • Here are some questions about health care you can ask at a town hall or public event (from Families USA)

Set Up a Meeting With Your Member of Congress's Office

Your Senators work for you. They are obligated to try and meet with constituents when requests are made. However, they are very busy (especially right now) and their calendars get full quickly. Since they will be home next week, this is the perfect time to reach out and set up a meeting.

A few quick tips -- here's a more comprehensive resource:

  • Call as soon as possible to set up a meeting!
  • Be as flexible as possible with day/time, as getting an appointment can be difficult.
  • Be firm but polite in asking to meet with the actual member of Congress. If you can't get a meeting with them in person, try to meet with the District Director or head of the district office. If neither is possible, try to meet with a staff person who works on that issue (e.g., health care). Remember that your goal is to build an ongoing relationship with these offices so be polite and respectful!
  • Sample script for setting up your visit:
    Hello, my name is ________. I am a constituent of Senator ______ and I am (choose one: a person living with HIV/with organization ______/an advocate for people living with HIV). There are XXX people living with HIV in the state of [name of state]. I have a group of constituents who would like to meet with Senator _____ to discuss our concerns about the proposed Republican healthcare bill as soon as possible. Can we find a time to meet with the Senator next week?

Preparing for the Meeting:

Note: Most meetings are only about 15 minutes long, whether you are meeting with the Member or their staff. This means your group has to be organized and prepared to get your points across.

  1. Once you have an appointment set, get your group of advocates together and plan to show up for it! Be early.
  2. Plan what you are going to talk about for the purposes of setting up the meeting. Find background and talking points for your issue here.

Schedule a preparation meeting or phone call for your group to go over the talking points and who will share personal stories about how proposed legislation will affect them.

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This article was provided by Positive Women's Network of the United States of America. Visit PWN-USA's website to find out more about their activities and publications.

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