On Wednesday, Republicans in the House of Representatives squeaked through a bill to begin to dismantle the nation's health care law. And in this narrow 217- 213 vote, it was only members of the GOP who voted "yes." That's because all Democrats, and even some moderate Republicans, believe that the American Health Care Act (AHCA), as it's called, would leave millions of additional Americans uninsured, notably by squashing an existing anti-discrimination measure for people with pre-existing conditions. But this notoriously unpopular and potentially lethal bill isn't law yet — and it never will be unless it passes the Senate, too. So, here's how to call your senators about the AHCA and urge them to fight against it in an as-yet unscheduled upcoming vote.
The mastermind behind the bill, House Speaker Paul Ryan, previously pledged to hold a House vote on the AHCA only when the vote to pass it were secured. It was an intuitive move, considering that the original version famously flopped without a vote in March because the most conservative of Republicans wouldn't support it. The embarrassing episode also prompted Republican lawmakers to offer amendments to the original bill to make it more palatable for ultraconservatives and moderates alike.
That's how it ended up with a provision that would entitle states to opt out of out the rule in the current health law, "Obamacare," that bans insurance companies from up-charging people with pre-existing conditions. These patients would be added in high-risk pools if states opting out made affording coverage impossible for them. The so-called MacArthur Amendment also would make it possible for states to waive insurance companies' current obligation to cover 10 essential health benefits in all plans.
These and many other troubling aspects of the bill had progressives hurrying to call their representatives in the House pre-vote. Th effort to convince them to reject the bill ultimately failed, so here's how to pick up the fight by urging members of the Senate to do what their counterparts in the House did not.
Get Your Facts Straight
There are lots of reasons why people are fired up about killing this iteration of the AHCA. Whether it's the fact its Republican architects have sought to exempt themselves from its ugliest ramifications or that its slashes to Medicaid could prove devastating for funding special education, figure out what matters most to you and prepare to let your senators know when you give their offices a ring.
Commit To Telling Your Story
Working off a script to guide your talking points is certainly much, much better than not calling at all. But the most effective route is to share hour the bill is question could impact your or your loved ones personally. Emily Ellsworth has had jobs answering the phones for Republican Utah Reps. Jason Chaffetz and Chris Stewart, and she told The New York Times that personalizing the feedback grabs lawmakers' attention. "What representatives and staffers want to hear is the individual impact of your individual story," she said. "I couldn’t listen to people’s stories for six to eight hours a day and not be profoundly impacted by them."
Get Their Contact Information
Simply click this link to find a full list of U.S. senators and this contact information. Alternatively, the newsletter Calls for Change uses subscribers' ZIP codes to send them phone numbers of their members of Congress within reminder emails to pick up the phone when there's something serious going down on Capitol Hill.
You're ready. So do it! Do it every day.
Don't Lose Hope
Chances are that the AHCA won't pass the Senate in its current form. At the end of the day, Republicans who are up for reelection don't want their campaigns marred by the fact that they voted to take health care away from millions of people. Even Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that AHCA will require significant changes before many senators will support it. "That's not the way it's going to work. To be honest," he said. "People are going to want to improve it. I don't see any way that it goes back in the form that it comes."
Another potential lifeline for those fighting the bill as it moves forward? By the time it hits the Senate floor, the AHCA will have been fully analyzed by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Most House Republicans were OK with voting before the CBO had the chance to publicize findings on the amended version of the bill, but it projected that the original could cause 24 million people to lose their insurance, according to NPR. Understanding the full effects of the bill should give senators pause.
So, call early and often. It could literally save lives.