We are days away from celebrating Independence Day, and I couldn’t help but to think of how one of the most patriotic acts we can exercise as Americans is our right and responsibility to speak with our government representatives about issues that impact us. Our ancestors fought for independence and democracy, and our ability to vote and access elected officials are critical for making our country by the people, for the people. It is important that those representing you hear your thoughts and concerns as they form their opinions on legislation that will impact your life and community. Do you know who your elected officials are and how to reach them?
Remember the kid in your neighborhood that pledged to grow up and become President? Well, he or she may not have met that lofty goal, but that person could very well be involved in your local political scene today. Let’s take a look at your community and build upward toward a national perspective. Your city council performs duties of the legislative branch, including the formation of legislative laws. Your mayor, on the other hand, is a part of the executive branch and is responsible for enforcing those laws. Oftentimes, you city council will focus on things such as the city’s goals and major projects. These projects may include a variety of things, such as making your downtown more handicap-accessible. You can find more information about your city’s elected representatives online, just as Knoxvillians can find information on the City of Knoxville Web site.
It is often the case for our state officials to have previously served in the local community before moving to the state, as is the case with Governor Haslam of Tennessee who was previously Knoxville’s mayor. It is at the state level where statewide issues are addressed. Your governor performs the duties of the executive branch while members of the state House of Representatives and Senate execute the legislative branch duties such as determining state budgets, taxation on items, how your state Medicaid program will operate, and what assistance will be available through various state programs. In Tennessee, for instance, former Governor Bredesen signed into law the CHOICES program which provides long-term care alternatives to nursing homes for disabled and elderly Tennesseans. To find your state officials, you can either go to your state’s Web site or visit this Web site that will give you state-specific contact information.
Finally, for national issues, you have a federal Member of the House of Representatives for your district and two federal Senators for your state. They work to represent you in Washington DC, and they enact legislation that shapes our entire country. Each member of the 435 Members of Congress has a personal Web site that will let you know how to contact him/her in Washington and in his/her district office(s). President Obama and Vice President Biden are, of course, part of the executive branch at a national level and can be reached via their online contact form. It is oftentimes the national issues that gain media attention, particularly health care reform, Medicare and Social Security, Veterans Affairs, and more.
So what does this mean for you?
Let’s say that you want to talk to someone about the importance of homecare and how you want your access to homecare equipment and services to be protected. This is often both a state and a federal issue. Now that you know your elected representatives, you can contact their office and let that representative know where you stand and how you hope that he/she will vote when this issue comes up. You start by introducing yourself and where you live, and then you state your brief talking points. Examples of talking points for homecare include:
Homecare is part of the answer to our rising costs in health care;
Homecare offers an affordable alternative to institutional care;
Homecare is patient-preferred;
Homecare results in better patient outcomes;
Homecare allows our country to benefit from the loving hours donated by informal (family) caregivers to take care of the sick, elderly, and disabled population instead of paying for it through government services;
Homecare allows the patient and his/her family to have a higher quality of life;
Over 8 million Americans are benefiting from homecare services in the US today, including those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease, spinal cord injuries, congestive heart failure, diabetes, and more;
Homecare reduces the length of hospital stays (which are very expensive);
Homecare keeps families together;
Homecare increases independence;
Homecare should be protected as a vitally important option for seniors and people with disablities.
I’d love to hear your experiences talking to your elected officials about homecare issues! Please feel free to share them as a comment, and we may pick one of your stories for a future Faces of Homecare post! I wish you all a blessed, safe fourth of July and leave you with this quote from Thomas Jefferson: “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed.”