Health care is the number-one issue in the upcoming state primaries and next November’s general election, according to most polls. And regardless of our political persuasions, access to quality, affordable health care is something all of us want for ourselves and our families. 

That’s why it is vital to let the candidate you support for president and those running for the US House or Senate know about the health-care issues that affect you. It’s also important to be in touch with candidates for your state legislature, since states license and regulate doctors and hospitals as well as all the health insurance plans offered in your state. Your voice can make a difference. To get your views heard… 

Know where to start. First off, you’ve got to find the proper mailing address, e-mail and/or phone numbers. If you are contacting an incumbent member of the US House of Representatives, go to House.gov/representatives. You can search by state or zip code. For the US Senate, go to Senate.gov/senators/contact and search by name or state. To contact your state legislators, go to Congress.gov/state-legislature-websites and click on your state. You’ll then see links to contact incumbent members. To contact a candidate for any office, search online by entering the candidate’s name and the phrase “contact info.” This will usually call up the candidate’s website, where you can find contact information. 

Put it in writing. Write a succinct letter or e-mail to an incumbent legislator or a candidate. Keep it to one page, if you can. Limit each communication to one issue. For example, if you are unable to afford your medications, explain that. Name the drugs you cannot afford…and point out that, even with your insurance (if you have coverage), the co-pay or deductible is beyond your means. If you have a recommendation to fix the problem, mention it. Make the message as personal as possible by telling your situation or a family member’s situation.

Put it in your own words. You may belong to an organization promoting a specific piece of legislation or issue. Often, these groups send out examples of letters you can use. Do not use these boilerplate letters. Incumbents and candidates get hundreds of these letters and e-mails, and Congressional staffers have told me that they usually end up in the trash. Instead, explain your view on the issue and why you either support or are against a given proposal—these messages are read. 

Pick up the phone. A direct telephone call to your elected official or to a candidate’s campaign office is also very effective. Unless the matter is being voted on in a matter of days, the best office to call is the incumbent’s district office—the one closest to you. In addition to offices in Washington, DC, all incumbents have district offices, which are staffed by knowledgeable personnel who handle constituent issues. For a nonincumbent candidate, contact the campaign office in your district. Ask to speak with the campaign director and explain your concerns. In most cases, that person will take your call. Briefly summarize your situation and state your opinion on pending legislation. Health care is an issue that’s too important to sit back and let others decide for you.