On February 17, Mary Ming-Mosley, Russel Wood, and Pat Hardy met with Congresswoman Gloria Negrete McLeod in Montclair, CA to ask her support of HR 1801, the Cancer Drug Coverage Parity Act. One week later, she was added as a co-sponsor. How, you ask, did this happen? I sat down with Mary and Russell recently to find out.
First, Mary participated in our “10 Steps to Meeting your Legislator” webinar, which covered the details of HR 1801 and best practices of in-district legislator meetings. Then, ACTION Team In-District Meeting mentor, Tom called Mary to answer questions and give her support throughout the process. “It was great to have an advocate who had done this before as a resource and a good reminder that I had committed to this meeting,” says Mary.
Setting up the meeting was easier than Mary thought it would be. “I was scared because I thought it was going to be hard,” recalls Mary. “I called and spoke with Marty, the office manager. She was more than willing to make an appointment for when the Congresswoman was back in the district. Marty asked me what we wanted to meet about, how many people were coming, and their names and addresses. She wanted to make sure we lived in the district. Then a few days later Marty called back and gave us a meeting on February 17.”
Like Mary discovered, the best way to get a meeting is to call the office and ask for one. The manager may ask you to email or fax a follow up request, but the initial contact should be over the phone to create a relationship and show that you are serious about the meeting.
Once the meeting was scheduled, I mailed Mary a folder with information on the legislation and postcards the group had collected to leave with the Congresswoman. Additionally, the group researched the legislation and the Congresswoman. “One of the most important things we did ahead of time was visit the Congresswoman’s website and learned about what was important to her,” says Russel. “I found out that she is very interested in veterans’ rights. I served 36 years in the Air Force, so the first thing I did after introducing myself was to thank her for being an advocate for veterans in Washington. We then talked for six or more minutes on the topic and I could tell she was pleased that we had done our research on her. I recommend that everyone do this before they meet with a legislator.”
Because this was their first time, the group was unsure what the Congresswoman would expect from them. Russel says, “We went in there with a plan to ask her for something and were nervous about that, but during the meeting it was clear that she was asking us what she could do for us. She was very eager to support what was important to us, which made it a very comfortable conversation.” Mary felt like she was speaking with an old friend, not an elected official. “The Congresswoman was very easy to talk with,” recalls Mary. “She treated us as if she had known us for years, and did not rush us; even though she had another appointment after ours. She was attentive, engaged and listened to us. It made me want to get out there and campaign for her.”
The group then explained multiple myeloma and the Cancer Drug Coverage Parity Act. “At the beginning of the meeting she said she had heard a little about the cost disparity between oral and IV cancer treatments, but did not understand the issue fully. Russel did a great job explaining the bill to her and then I spoke of a support group member who had to pay $7,000 a month for his oral treatments. Luckily, that member could afford it, but if it was me, I would have to go without treatment. With myeloma, we have to be able to access every treatment because there is no cure and the disease becomes resistant. The Congresswoman had never heard of myeloma and was struck with the realities of what the disparity can do to a person,” recalled Mary.
Forty-five minutes later, the group left with a newfound relationship with Congresswoman McLeod and a new co-sponsor for HR 1801. In-district meetings make a huge difference in moving the Cancer Drug Coverage Parity Act forward. When you take the time to meet with your legislator it forces him/her to pay attention to the bill and put a face to the issue. With roughly 5,000 bills introduced each session the personal outreach from a constituent is what affects change.
Mary and Russel’s Top 5 Tips:
- Be very clear on the issue that is important to you and what you are asking for
- Take 10 minutes and research what is important to the legislator
- Don’t be afraid to talk to elected officials because they are people just like you.
- Legislators work for you.
- Be polite, no matter what.
Thank you Mary, Russel and Pat for your hard work and making this meeting happen!
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