Visit Your Legislator

Make an Effective Legislative Office Visit

One of the most effective ways to educate your local legislators about IBD is to meet with them in person.

Below is a suggested template for your guidance when making legislative visits. Be persistent as it may take several tries before you are able to schedule a meeting.

If you're having trouble scheduling a home visit, a Town Hall meeting is another opportunity for you meet your legislator. This is an ideal forum to ask questions, thank him/her for support or just strengthen your relationship with him/her. Prepare for this as you would for a one-on-one meeting, and review the speaking points provided below.

Health Care Reform Talking Points and Handouts:

If you are interested in meeting with your Senators about the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), below are talking points and handouts to assist you.

Talking points:

  • My name is [NAME] and I am a constituent from [TOWN]
  • I'm calling to ask the Senator to vote NO on the Better Care Reconciliation Act as written
  • [Tell your Crohn's and colitis story, explain why adequate and affordable coverage is important to you]
  • I'm concerned that this bill would allow insurers to waive the Essential Health Benefits and offer plans without critical services like prescription drug coverage or chronic disease management, reducing the overall qualtiy of plans on the market and making it unaffordable for patients like me to get the care necessary to treat my condition. There must be guardrails in place like minimum coverage standards to ensure patients have access to - and can afford - critical services
  • I'm also concerned about patient costs - the bill would allow state plans to waive the cap on out of pocket costs
  • The bill would also increase premiums for older adults, significantly cut Medicaid spending, and reduce premium tax credits for low-income Americans
  • Will the Senator vote NO on the Better Care Reconciliation Act? How will the Senator seek support access to affordable and meaningful coverage? 
  • What is the best way to contact you as the Senate continues to consider the bill? 
  • Thank you for your consideration
Handouts:

Step 1:  Lay the groundwork

Find your legislators by entering your zip code here and research their background. 

Review the federal legislative recommendations and practice telling your IBD story in 2-3 minutes. Consider if you can link your personal story to the legislative asks to drive home how these policies would impact you. 

Step 2:  Contact your Representative and Senators

Call the member's Washington, DC office and request a meeting with the legislator in the local district office nearest you. Ask for the scheduler and explain the purpose of your visit.

Sample script:

"Hello. My name is [NAME] and I am from [CITY]. I'm a constituent and a volunteer with the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation. I would like to stop by the [REPRESENTATIVE'S or SENATOR'S] local office and briefly talk with them about supporting issues pertinent to patients with inflammatory bowel diseases."

Sample email (never use snail mail):

Don't be discouraged if the meeting is scheduled with an aide, rather than with the legislator. A meeting with a key member of the legislator's staff can be highly productive.

If you don't hear from the scheduler, be polite but persistent. Don't give up!

Consider letting us know you've asked for a meeting by emailing advocacy@crohnscolitisfoundation.org.

Step 3:  Be prepared for your visit

Have handouts for your lawmakers in hand as you depart for your visits. These can be useful to remind you of the topics and you can point to the handout during your meeting. General handouts are below and you can also check out the Advocacy Tools & Resources page for additional handouts. 

If other advocates are joining you for your meeting, decide in advance who will speak on which topics and who will leave the materials.

Laslty, bring your camera! This is an excellent photo opportunity and lowmakers love good PR. Offer your photos to your chapter for their newsletter.

Step 4:  Be prompt, to the point, and polite during the meeting. Then ask for something to be done

Be punctual to your meeting. Be flexible if the legislator is running late.

Make sure to clearly state the action you want legislators to take, for example:

    • "As you finalize the fiscal year 2018 appropriations bills, please support research on IBD"
    • "Please join the Congressional Crohn's & Colitis Caucus"

Use personal stories to underscore a point.

Be straightforward and courteous in expressing your views, and be receptive to the lawmakers questions and comments. If the lawmaker doesn't volunteer his or her position on the issue - ask

If you're asked a question that you can't answer, don't guess. Instead, say that you will look into the question and give the lawmaker an answer as soon as possible. Email advocacy@crohnscolitisfoundation.org with any questions you cannot answer.

Please remember, as a non-profit 501(C)(3) organization, the Foundation by law cannot make political contributions to members of Congress. Individuals may make contributions to legislators in line with existing federal campaign finance laws. The Foundation does not endorse any political candidate and seeks bipartisan support for its public policy initiatives.

Again - be sure to politely ask your lawmaker to take an action. This may sound trivial, but numerous lawmakers complain that they meet with nice consittuents who never make it clear what it is they want.

Step 5:  Follow up after your visits

Send a thank you letter and reiterate the key points you discussed.

Update us on your meeting by emailing advocacy@crohnscolitisfoundation.org. The Foundation's advocacy staff can also help follow up.

Step 6:  Continue your advocacy efforts

Join the Advocacy Network

Weigh in on policy issues via the Action Center

Invite your legislator to attend various chapter events and other photo opportunities.

Attend a local fundraiser or event of the lawmaker's.

Visit your legislators in their Capitol Hill offices when you're in Washington, DC.

If you have any concerns or additional questions not covered in these instructions, please email advocacy@crohnscolitisfoundation.org.

Good luck!