EDITORIAL NOTE: This is a nuts-and-bolts post pulling together some information we are going to need before long. I know some readers don't want any more politics, but emboldened Republicans are hard bent on killing Medicare and they want to do it right after the New Year. Discussion of Medicare privatization may come up sooner than we expect; Congress reconvenes today, none of the Republicans are shy about pressing their political advantage. I spent some time over the long weekend, locking down details of one way we can make our voices heard. There will be others, but contacting your representatives is basic to the effort, and there is a right way to do it. Maybe you will want to bookmark some of these links for future use.
Discussion of Medicare privatization may come up sooner than we expect; Congress reconvenes today, none of the Republicans are shy about pressing their political advantage.
I spent some time over the long weekend, locking down details of one way we can make our voices heard. There will be others, but contacting your representatives is basic to the effort, and there is a right way to do it. Maybe you will want to bookmark some of these links for future use.
As I wrote here last week, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) has been pushing a plan to privatize Medicare for at least half a dozen years and is willing to lie to the American public to accomplish it:
”What people don't realize,” Ryan told [Fox News host Brent] Baier, “is because of Obamacare, Medicare is going broke, medicare is going to have price controls because of Obamacare, Medicaid is in fiscal straits.
“You have to deal with those issues if you are going to repeal and replace Obamacare. Medicare has serious problems [because of] Obamacare.”
This is exactly opposite of what is true which you can read about on my most recent Medicare post here.
As it looks now, Ryan's new, private Medicare coverage would compete against traditional Medicare. New York Times reporter, Robert Pear, who has closely followed Medicare and Social Security for many years, wrote about Ryan's plan last week and noted this about how it would work:
“'Beneficiaries would have to pay much more to stay in traditional fee-for-service Medicare,' said John K. Gorman, a former Medicare official who is now a consultant to many insurers. 'Regular Medicare would become the province of affluent beneficiaries who can buy their way out of' private plans.”
According to many reports (but who knows what applies in a * administration), Ryan intends to push Medicare privatization (also called voucher plan) legislation as soon as the 115th Congress convenes in January.
Last Friday, in response to the Republican Medicare threat, Senate Minority Leader-elect, Chuck Schumer (D-New York) issued a defiant statement reminiscent of actor Clint Eastwood in a certain movie [emphasis is mine]:
“Medicare is one of the most successful government programs ever created – it’s been a success story for decades. The Republicans’ ideological and visceral hatred of government could deny millions of senior citizens across the country the care they need and deserve.
“To our Republican colleagues considering this path, Democrats say: make our day. Your effort will fail, and this attack on our seniors will not stand.”
I hope Senator Schumer is right but with a Republican-controlled Senate, he will need a lot of backup from the people of the United States and it is we, elders, who best understand the consequences of Medicare privatization.
For when that time comes – and it may be as soon as early January – I have collected some information about how to take our message to Congress and make it as effective as possible. Having this information now will keep future posts on the issue much shorter.
THE BEST WAYS TO CONTACT CONGRESS
I found instructions from a former six-year Congressional staffer, Emily Ellsworth, with an excellent list of what does and does not make the biggest impact.
• Twitter and Facebook do not work. Staffers hardly ever check them.
• Emailing your representatives is better, but the staffers get so many emails and are so busy, they just use an algorithm to “batch them” and send out form letters in response. (Snailmail is, apparently, dead.)
At Lifehacker where I found this information, the reporter notes that Ms. Ellsworth specifically recommends phone calls:
”...phone calls have to be dealt with when they occur and they can’t be ignored. A large volume of phone calls can be overwhelming for office staffers, but that means that their bosses hear about it.
“Which office you target also matters. Members of Congress have offices in DC, but they also have offices in their home district that they represent. Target your letters and phone calls to your local office and you’ll have an easier time getting their attention.”
Also, says Ms. Ellsworth, “If you want to talk to your rep, show up at [local] town hall meetings. Get a huge group that they can't ignore. Pack that place and ask questions.”
These and other instructions are included in Ellsworth's (irony alert) Twitter chain that is reproduced in full at Lifehacker.
CONGRESSIONAL EMAIL ADDRESSES AND PHONE NUMBERS
U.S. Senate contacts including D.C. and home district offices: You might have to search around to find the state office contacts but with a few exceptions, they are somewhere on the main page.
U.S. House of Representatives contactsincluding D.C. and home district offices – the latter sometimes called satellite offices: Although I have not looked at the web pages of all 435 Congress people, listings for district offices were on the pages I spot checked.
Over the years here, I've recommended other websites that list Congressional phone numbers but after my latest scrutiny, these appear to be the most thorough and best organized. New members of both the House and the Senate are sworn in on 3 January 2017. Obviously, newly-elected representatives may not have web pages yet on day one.
SCRIPTS FOR PHONE CALLS
Congressional staffers – at home and in Washington – are busy people. Another excellent suggestion is to prepare a short, to-the-point script you can read when you telephone your representatives.