How to plan a meeting with your Member of Congress after passing your resolution
If you’ve won a municipal resolution from their district, we urge you to set up a virtual meeting with your representative to make sure that your representative is aware that your town or county has officially endorsed Medicare for All and that you expect them to cosponsor HR 1976 – the Medicare for All Act of 2021.
If your representative is already a co-sponsor of HR 1976, this is an excellent opportunity to thank them and urge them to continue to be a vocal champion in support of the policy by pushing for Congressional hearings, authoring an op-ed explaining their support and speaking out in other ways.
Step 1: Putting your group together
It is useful to have a list of potential attendees at hand when you request your meeting. A group of names belonging to constituents representing different interest groups is harder to say no to. Some of the people on this list may not be able to make the dates that the staffer offers and you won’t need to confirm the list until after you decide on the date.
If you need help building your group, we can reach out to our national partner organizations to find other activists in your district who can attend the meeting. Click here to set up a call with us.
A good delegation is between five to eight persons who represent different constituencies, such as labor, faith, business, community organizations. Don’t delay setting up your meeting trying to get the list perfect – you can keep reaching out to other potential attendees while you’re waiting for a date from the office staff.
You can also consider inviting a member of the city council or county board who championed the resolution – but consider it a bonus if they say yes and don’t wait to hear back from their staff to move forward.
Step 2: Setting up your meeting date
Run an internet search to find your Congressperson’s official website and locate their district office.
When you call your legislator’s office, ask to speak with the person who handles the legislator’s schedule. Tell the scheduler you would like to set up a virtual meeting with your Representative during the recess and the general topics you wish to discuss. Tell them the names and affiliation of the people in your group. If someone in your group knows the legislator personally or professionally, make sure that the scheduler is aware of the relationship.
Be persistent and polite. Whenever speaking to a staff member, make sure you have their name and the correct spelling. The person at the other end of the phone may tell you they’re giving your phone number to someone else – make sure you have that person’s name written down. Don’t wait more than four days for a return call. If you don’t hear back from the district office, try calling the DC office and ask for the scheduler there. Call again and keep doing this until you get an answer.
If your Member of Congress can’t meet with your group, tell the scheduler that you would like to meet with staff member who manages health policy for the congressperson.
When the staff member gives you the date(s) available, check with your group and reach out to us if you need help finding more people. Confirm your meeting with the staff member. They may ask for your final attendee list now or they may ask for it later.
Step 3: Preparing for your meeting
Do your research
Check to see if your representative is a cosponsor of HR 1976. You can also use the Congressional Directory for additional research on their positions: www.congress.org, www.house.gov, www.senate.gov . Just punch in your ZIP Code and the site provides you with contact information and a web page for your Member of Congress. You will be able to find biographical information, committee and subcommittee assignments, and key issues of concern for your representatives. Review your legislator’s voting record and any publicly stated views or opinions.
Run an internet search or news search with your Congressperson’s name and “Medicare for All” to see if they have made public statements about the legislation. If they are not a cosponsor, they may have stated why – and you’ll be able to tailor your talking points towards these objections.
If your Congressperson is a cosponsor, find out if they’ve been publicly vocal about their support for Medicare for All. Check the “Issues” section of their website to see what they say about healthcare reform.
Typically, you’ll want one leader/facilitator, two or more storytellers, and a notetaker during the meeting. After the meeting, you should send a follow up email to thank the Congressperson for their time. Decide who will write this in advance.
Leader: The leader makes introductions, is responsible for tracking the energy in the room, and for making sure other participants are brief and stick to the plan. At the end of the meeting, the leader will make a clear request, whether it’s to cosponsor the bill, become a more vocal supporter (such as writing an op-ed or pushing for Congressional Hearings), or to meet again next year.
Resolutions activist: This person will explain the resolution(s) your group passed in the district and share examples of why the council felt it was important.
Storyteller(s): A good storyteller can be a person impacted by uninsurance, underinsurance, or watching a family member suffer the consequences of a broken healthcare system, as well asa healthcare professional,, union member, faith or business leader. Storytellers should prepare in advance to speak for 1-2 minutes, sharing just enough information to make a point and what Medicare for All would mean for them personally.
Note taker: This person will take notes, concentrating specifically on the Congressperson’s response to requests, any questions that are asked and any reasons given for not cosponsoring the legislation.
Schedule a zoom call to practice your presentations and check connection speed and video quality. If someone in your group is on a bad connection, try to plan for them to join you from a more reliable location.
While you have everyone present, confirm a time for your debrief meeting – ideally it should be within a day or two of the meeting with your Congressperson.
Step 4: During the meeting
If your representative has supported Medicare for All in the past, be sure to thank them if the opposite is true, consider that your visit may prevent more active opposition in the future, and perhaps even result in a positive vote at a later time.
Remember: This meeting shouldn’t be an end in itself. Think of it as the beginning of a relationship with your representative that will allow you to voice your opinion on topics in the future. With this in mind, make sure the relationship you build is a positive one, based on respect. Try not to be hostile: agree to disagree, if necessary. They may not share your viewpoint, but your information does have an impact on how they vote.
Ask for specific action. Avoid asking open-ended questions that may result in ceding control of the meeting to the legislator or their aide. Always ask for a specific commitment and then follow up. No matter how supportive or unsupportive your legislator is, there is always a next step.
Your representative may not give you an answer on the spot. Tell them you will follow up with an aide in two weeks, and be sure to do so. Offer to answer their questions or to provide additional information.
If the representative says no, be sure to find out why. Ask them what, specifically, they oppose in the bill.
Provide affirmation where possible. Look for areas of agreement and affirm them. Convey your appreciation for positive steps, no matter how small. Try to end the meeting on a positive note.
Step 5: After the meeting
After the meeting, find a place where you can relax with your delegation and compare notes on the meeting. This is important because different people might have different interpretations of what happened.
Agree as a group on who will do which follow-up tasks. Send a thank-you note after the meeting to the representative via the person who scheduled the meeting, and, if commitments were made during the meeting, repeat your understanding of them. Don’t forget to give a phone number and address where you can be reached.