How to Talk to Your Elected Officials About Chronic Illness

Your elected officials at the federal, state, and most importantly the local level are interested in helping you. After all, YOU are their constituent, and their job is to represent their constituents. Getting in contact with your elected officials’ offices can help speed up the insurance claim process, help improve existing guidelines of care, and will send a message to your government that your issue is real, and needs to be taken seriously.

This information is part of CreakyJoints’ comprehensive guide for patients living with rheumatoid arthritis. Learn more or download Raising the Voice of Patients: A Patient’s Guide to Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis.

There are a number of reasons to contact your elected officials, and it’s important to understand that many will work to help you, but mostly on an individual level as a “constituent service.” As much as you and they may want sweeping change to the laws, change takes time and sustained interest from constituents.

So now that we’ve tempered your expectations about government, how should you go about contacting your local officials, and what can they help you with?

First you need to find them. To do so, follow this link: http://openstates.org/

Your state senator, house representative, or assembly person can work to be a powerful advocate in clearing up insurance coverage issues. Furthermore, sharing your story will provide your representatives a picture of their constituents that will help inform their decisions on future legislation.

How should you share your story? While a personal hand-written letter is the most impactful way of sharing your story, a phone call or personal email is a more practical way of contacting your elected official.

You can also get involved with the 50-State Network, a national organization of patients just like you who want to make their voices heard by their elected officials. Learn more and sign up at https://www.50statenetwork.org/ — this is a program developed and run by GHLF, the parent non-profit of CreakyJoints.

The ACR also brings together patients like you, rheumatologists and health professionals, and families of kids with rheumatic diseases to Washington each fall to lobby members of Congress about important legislative issues. You can find out more about joining this trip at http://www.rheumatology.org/Advocacy/Advocates-for-Arthritis.

RAISE YOUR VOICE: Everyone involved in healthcare — including elected officials, insurance providers, drug manufacturers, hospitals, pharmacies, and physician groups — should focus on you, the patient, when setting any policies or making any decisions. Healthcare is about you — your health, your treatment options, your quality of care, and your needs. Speak up if you feel that a new law, regulation, or policy will make it harder for you to access the best care. Or speak up on behalf of legislation that you believe will make getting the best care easier! Use social media, email, phone, letters, or postcards to let your voice be heard at all times.