Sunday, August 16, 2009

In Search representatives

Well, it's Sunday and if it's Sunday...

So I can't believe how many people I've heard from this week since I posted my blog last Sunday saying I was going to actually go to my representatives' offices and talk about healthcare. You all were as up in arms as I, and you cheered me on in a way I found empowering.

In preparation for my expedition I wrote a carefully thought out letter in which I told my story specifically and I was clear about what the legislation needs to include for me. This included a ban on the idea of pre-existing conditions, caps on coverage and being dropped altogether. I also chose to include copies from Blue Cross of how much my initial premiums were versus my recent letter from them of what they'll be increased to starting September. It is mind-blowingly close to triple the amount.

I phoned ahead. Lamar Alexander's office wanted me to discuss it on the phone rather than in person, but agreed to in person nonetheless. Bob Corker's answering machine mailbox was full and there was no live person there at all. And Jim Cooper's office gave me their address and directions. So right off the bat, Rep. Jim Cooper wins round one.

After a little confusion about the actual address, I found myself asking directions in (ironically) the Blue Cross Blue Shield building. They, interestingly enough, had no problem directing me to the two senator's offices. Hmmm....

As it turns out, my two senators have offices in what I refer to as the Capitol Records building, which sort of affirms my notion that there really is no difference between politics and the music business, but I digress. So I drove into the underground parking lot and was greeted by the security guard with the sign in pad. As soon as I filled out my destination, the guard asked if I had an appointment. I told him I had phoned ahead and that someone named Michael was expecting me. He directed me to the proper floor and I got in the elevator. When I stepped out of the elevator another security guard was there to greet me and point me toward the office while he stood outside the door watching. "Wow," I thought, "they never pay this much attention to me when I'm going to Capitol Records."

I was greeted by a pretty, twenty-something redhead named Mackenzie. The offices were beautiful, very upscale and well organized. I told Mackenzie that I had spoken to Michael about coming by. She told me that she would take anything I had and convey it to the Senator. All I could think was, "Good move, Lamar. I never expected the redhead to be playing defense." So I gave her my little packet of papers and left, feeling slightly outmaneuvered. Then again, I was a rookie. What did I expect? The security guard watched me leave, but I didn't leave the building. I had another stop - Senator Bob Corker's office.

There was no security guard to meet me on his floor, and I had to actually ask someone in another office where his was exactly. It was at the end of the hall, very out of the way. There were delivery post-it notes all over the door to his darkened office as well as papers slipped under the door. It looked like no one had been there in a while. I gingerly slid my packet under the door as well and headed back to the elevator.

Once out in the open I headed downtown toward my representative's office. I found a parking meter on the street and optimistically put a few coins in it, hoping I might actually get to speak to someone about healthcare this time. After all, they were friendlier when I called, and he is (supposedly) a Democrat. Plus, I voted for him. Doesn't that give me some say so?

I walked in with my last packet of the day. The offices looked smaller than the other ones I'd been to, and it was bustling. Unlike Lamar Alexander's office, there were insane amounts of papers everywhere. It looked to me mostly like letters. They were piled high all over the place, with most on the receptionist's desk. She was also twenty-something and far more harried looking than the Senator's receptionist, though she too was playing defense. Almost verbatim she offered to take my package and promised that the Representative would receive it. I reluctantly handed it to her, knowing I too would be receiving a form letter like the kind she had in a stack and was mailing out.

Will anyone read my letter? Will it make it to anyone who can do something? Does my voice even count when the only power I wield is my one vote? Will the needs of an average citizen ever outweigh the money of the powerful insurance lobby? Did it make any difference that I took the time to participate in the process? These are the questions that remain unanswered.

Here's what I do know. It will take a lot more people like me if we're going to get this done. So while I appreciate your cheering me on, please contact your own representatives and make your voices heard. The links are below.

We must do this - NOW. Thanks for stopping by. Enjoy your Sunday and please tell your friends.

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