You Can Help Save Obamacare

Let’s save lives together.

Ed: What’s included below owes a great deal to the wonderful work of the authors of Indivisible: A Practical Guide to Resisting the Trump Agenda and the good people at Enroll America, who have worked tirelessly for years to make sure people have access to health care. Any errors are mine alone.

The President-Elect and his allies in Congress have promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare), and the process has already begun. The law isn’t perfect but it includes two very important things: provisions that make it possible for people to access health insurance and thus receive care, and a bunch of rules about how health care works in this country, like requiring that you’ll get coverage for pre-existing conditions, that birth control is free, and that young people can stay on their parents’ insurance until they are 26.

We’ve all benefited from the law. And that’s important. We all have a story to share. If you’ve had cancer in the past and can now get health insurance, you’ve been affected by the coverage provisions. If your job doesn’t provide it but you have insurance anyway, it’s because of the law. Your prescription drug costs are probably lower because of the law. Your doctor visits probably cost less because of the law.

If the law is repealed, all that is going away.

You can help stop that. And it won’t take too much time.

One of the most effective ways to do so is to contact your Republican** member of Congress or the Senate and encourage them to keep the law. Find them here. If you can, visit their office in DC or in your district. If you can’t do that, call their office in Washington. Make sure to reach all three representatives: your Congressman/woman and both of your Senators. Make sure you call or visit when their office is open.

If there’s anything politicians care about, it’s keeping their job. Your vote can help decide if they do. So they will listen to you. You might not change their mind but you will affect their thinking and force them to defend their actions. Public pressure works.

When you call or visit, you’ll probably talk to a receptionist or intern. They may be cranky from getting a lot of calls. Keep it as positive as you can. And don’t be intimidated. It is their job to talk to you because it is your representative’s job to listen to you.

And keep notes. Write down what you’re told.

Make sure you do the following:

  • Introduce yourself: state your name, where you live, and identify yourself as a constituent.
  • Thank the person on the other end of the line for taking your call.
  • Ask to speak to the person who works on health care issues. More likely than not, you won’t be transferred over to them. Whether you are or not, continue the conversation as follows.
  • Ask the person on the other end of the line if your Senator or Congressman will vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Most likely, the answer will be yes.
  • Say that you want to keep the law and say why. Make sure to tell a personal story. Your experience is more effective than numbers. How has the law benefited you? The more personal, the better. Try to make the story about a way the law has benefited you (or someone close to you, but it’s better if it’s you). Tell your story.
  • Ask if your Senator or Congressman has a way to ensure that you’ll be able to keep that benefit. They’ll probably say something about how they’re going to replace it with something better. Ask if they can tell you anything specific about that.
  • Say that you hope the member of Congress or Senator will reconsider their position because you’re worried about losing whatever benefit you described.
  • Make sure to end the call by thanking the person for their time.

Here’s a sample script:

You: Hello. My name is Jane Smith. I live in Anytown and I’m one of Congressman Bob’s constituents. Thanks so much for taking my call. Can I speak to the staff person who handles health care issues?

Receptionist: I’m sorry, but they’re not available.

You: I completely understand. Is Congressman Bob planning to vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act?

Receptionist: Yes. He wants to make America great again.

You: Well, I am calling today because I hope he’ll reconsider. [Sample stories follow]

  1. I was laid off earlier this year and because of Obamacare I was able to get health insurance, which is really important because I have asthma. Without insurance, doctor visits would be impossible since I don’t have steady income and couldn’t afford the cost of the visit or the medication I need to keep breathing. I’m really scared of all of that going away. Before I got insurance I got by by visiting the emergency clinic whenever I had an attack.
  2. For a long time birth control was too expensive for me, even though I have insurance, but since the law was passed I’ve been able to use it. It’s really important for my health to stay on birth control but I won’t be able to afford it without the law.
  3. I work three jobs to make ends meet, but they’re all part-time and don’t provide health insurance. I qualified for Medicaid because of Obamacare so now I’m able to take my kids to the doctor. Earlier this year my son fell at the playground and broke his arm. Thank goodness we had insurance so he could afford to get the care he needed. We’re still paying off the bills from when something similar happened to my daughter ten years ago.
  4. I suffer from depression and have for a long time. Because of the law my employer now provides me with coverage to see a therapist and take medication. These aren’t things I can afford on my own. My quality of life has improved so much because of this and I’ve been able to hold on to a good job.

Receptionist: Well, we’ll make sure it’s replaced with something better.

You: How’s that going to work?

Receptionist: I don’t have specific information about that.

You: Well, that really worries me. This is a life or death issue for me and for me and my family. I really hope Congressman Bob will reconsider his position. Thank you for your time today.

You can also use this call tool.

For extra credit: recruit some of your friends and get them to call with you. If you can’t do it at the same time, encourage them to do it on their own. Follow up with a call or text to make sure they make the call. The more people who share their stories, the better.

For extra extra credit: Write a letter to the editor summarizing you call. That kind of public account can put added pressure on your Congressman. Here’s a sample letter.

Congressman Bob isn’t listening. Earlier this week I called his office because I’m worried about losing coverage if Obamacare goes away. I was laid off earlier this year and because of Obamacare I was able to get health insurance, which is really important because I have asthma. Without insurance, doctor visits would be impossible since I don’t have steady income and couldn’t afford the cost of the visit or the medication I need to keep breathing. I’m really scared of all of that disappearing. Not only does Congressman Bob want to take all that away, he has no plan to replace it once it’s gone. A staffer told me [whatever they said]. This isn’t acceptable to people who need health care right now and it won’t work for his constituents. I hope he’ll reconsider his position because we all deserve representation that makes our lives better, instead of hurting us.

** It’s not worth spending the time calling Democrats. None of them are going to vote to repeal it. If you’re like me and you’re represented by three Democrats, don’t take this and use it to call Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell or any other member. They don’t really care what you think because they don’t represent you. Instead send this to friends who have Republican representatives and encourage them to use the guide.

Want help? Want to help? Leave a comment below and I’ll respond.

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