Only half a year remains in the current session of Congress. Once Congress adjourns, all bills
that have not been voted on will essentially 'die,' and must be reintroduced again in the 112th
session of Congress that begins in January 2011.
The Medicare Access to Diabetes Self-Management Training Act has been introduced in the Senate
as S. 3211 and in the House as H.R. 2425. We must increase the number of Congressional co-sponsors
for these bills if they are going to pass Congress this year. That is where you come in! We need
your help in contacting your Senators and Representatives and asking them to co-sponsor our
Because it can be confusing to understand the legislative process, we thought it would be
helpful to answer some general questions about bills and the process for getting them
HOW MANY BILLS ARE INTRODUCED EACH SESSION?
This year, over 5,400 bills have been introduced in the House. Over 3,400 have been introduced
in the Senate. And more bills are introduced daily. Of these only a very tiny fraction will ever
actually be 'voted on.'
Most bills that are voted on are often combined into larger packages to streamline congressional
SO, HOW DOES OUR BILL GET INCLUDED IN ONE OF THESE LARGER HEALTH BILLS?
To compete for space in one of these larger packages, Congress must generally agree that 3 main
goals have been met:
- The policy behind the smaller bill has merit: i.e. carefully crafted educational documents
showing the need for the bill.
- The politics behind the bill has merit, i.e. enough constituents have contacted their
Congresspersons and asked them to pass the bill.
- The process exists to pass the bill, i.e. a larger Medicare bill is moving through Congress,
which can serve as a 'vehicle' on which to attach our bill.
The first goal has been met by the efforts of AADE staff and volunteers. Now, it’s time to work
on goal #2. We need the diabetes education community to show interest and support for these bills
so that we can include our bill in a larger one when the opportunity arises (goal #3).
WHY DOES IT SEEM LIKE MY COMMUNICATION WITH MY MEMBER(S) OF CONGRESS HAS NOT BEEN HEARD?
The Internet has dramatically increased the ease with which constituents can contact their
Members of Congress. Most Congressional offices now receive several thousand emails a day.
Unfortunately, in some ways, the ever-increasing communication traffic is so heavy that it is
very easy for emails or faxes to be generically batched and a 'form letter' used as a reply. A form
letter usually includes a sentence to the effect that the Member appreciates being informed of
(fill in the blank) issue and will certainly consider the bill if it 'comes up for a vote.' This
type of letter does not help advance our cause - it says nothing and promises nothing.
SO, HOW DO I REALLY MAKE AN IMPACT?
In your email or fax, take the time to add a personal sentence to describe your own diabetes
education program, the patients you serve, and why S. 3211/H.R. 2425 will help increase access to
care for the many people in your area who desperately need to learn how to control their diabetes.
Be sure and ask your Member to "Co-sponsor" S. 3211/H.R. 2425 respectively. Do not simply ask for
their "support" by itself; you will likely get a form letter in response.
Follow up with the Member's Health Legislative Assistant by phone. If at all possible, do not
simply call and leave a message at the front desk.
Get on board with the many "Non-Washington" based activities that you can to communicate with
your Members when they are home, such as:
- Attend Town Halls or other regional events where you can ask a question or make a statement
about the need to co-sponsor S. 3211, H.R. 2425.
- Find out if your Member does online chats and join in.
- Make an appointment with senior staff in one of the local offices. Many junior level staff
often work in the district offices, handling personal constituent problems such as Social Security
check issues. However, the more senior Office Directors are the ones keeping their finger on the
pulse of important issues that matter to their constituency, and they can be very helpful in making
sure that your concerns are carried to D.C.
- Meeting with the local district staff is especially important if you feel you have received the
'form' letter response noted above, or no response at all.
The old axiom is as true in Washington as anywhere else: The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Of course, this is not a license to be rude, threaten to withhold your vote, or make similar
statements. Because the Diabetes Education bill is bi-partisan, widely supported among major health
and diabetes groups, and does not impact the federal deficit, your message can always be an
extremely positive statement about the benefits this bill will bring to patients in your state who
The only hurdle we must overcome in gaining co-sponsors for S. 3211/H.R. 2425 is simply that our
bill is small, relative to other larger bills now under consideration. So, it is easy for it to be
overlooked among other competing health interests. That is why your persistence is so vital.
AADE has a sample letter that is easy to send to your
Representative. Take a moment to personalize the letter and follow it up with a call to your
Congressperson’s Health Legislation Assistant.
Thank you for your ongoing help in making the Diabetes Education bill a reality and helping us
all ensure that individuals with diabetes are able to receive the quality care they need!