With the funding cliff temporarily averted, there’s time to get a meeting now with your member of Congress: members will be home for the President’s Day recess in February before the March deadline, so please try to get a meeting then.
Congress is currently engaged in final negotiations over funding for the entire federal government, and the future of the NHSC hangs in the balance. There has never been a more important time for you to make a difference in the future of the NHSC program—your vocal support is critical as lawmakers negotiate reauthorizing mandatory funding for the NHSC. Contact your Senators and House Representative immediately using our helpful talking points below and ask that they support reauthorizing the NHSC program at $950 million in mandatory funding over the next three years.
Not sure who your House Representative is? Click here.
Call your member’s office and ask to have a meeting with your member of Congress and/or their healthcare staffer. Need help setting up a meeting? Email ACU’s Deputy Director of Policy & Advocacy, Jordan Marshall. Below is the information you normally must have completed when setting up a meeting with your congressional office.
Meeting Request Information
Location: District office, Washington D.C. Office, or Virtual Meeting over Zoom
Meeting Length: 20-30 minutes
Number of Meeting Attendees:
Reason for Meeting: The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) encourages clinicians to work in the most underserved communities of the country by providing scholarships and loan forgiveness to those clinicians. Unfortunately, the persistent deficit in NHSC funding has resulted in a perpetual shortfall in filled clinician vacancies in underserved communities across the nation. Without Congressional action that adequately increases NHSC funding before March 8, the NHSC’s field strength will decrease and only a small portion of Loan Repayment and Scholarship applicants will be granted awards. We would like to meet and discuss current bipartisan legislative solutions in Congress.
How to Prepare for a Congressional Meeting
Step 1: Pre-Meeting
Know Your Member of Congress:
- House of Representatives Member (1)
- U.S. Senators (2)
- Read Biographical Material
- This includes what committees they sit on, party affiliation, etc.
- Review Congressional Website
- Particularly recent news releases and media statements
- *If available, read health policy positions and legislation sponsored/cosponsored
- Read Recent Social Media Posts
- Review National and Local Media Coverage
- Use this Information to Connect!
Knowing your audience is important. Use what they care about and connect it to what you care about. Is the member a supporter of maternal health or health equity? Discuss those topics through the lens of the NHSC. Maybe the member is a leader in the small business space. Discuss how valuable the health care workforce is in sustaining the local economy.
Know Your Congressional Staffers
- Chief of Staff (CoS)
- Deputy Chief of Staff
- Legislative Director (LD)
- Policy Advisor (PA)
- Legislative Assistant (LA)
- Legislative Aide (Leg Aide)
- Legislative Correspondent (LA)
- Staff Assistant (SA)
*We’ve listed the most common positions you’ll see in offices for both the Senate and House. The order of seniority goes from top to bottom. The underlined positions are those that only have one staff member per office. Every other position can have multiple staffers with the same title, with the total dependent on the needs of that particular office.
There is a high turnover rate on Capitol Hill, and many staffers are typically 22-26 years old. This doesn’t matter on the Hill, however: we mention this to say that you shouldn’t be discouraged if you’re meeting with a SA. They may not have the authority as someone higher, but they could be a LA a year from now.
What to Expect in Meetings
ACU is leading the effort to strengthen the NHSC and to push for its expansion to all underserved communities in the future. We need to strengthen the program this year: and to be successful, we need your help! ACU is tirelessly advocating, but the bottom line is that the voice of advocates and the healthcare workforce is the most important part in this process – members of Congress and their staff need to hear from you and visit your health centers.
Step 2: Introductions
Introduce yourself to the Member of Congress and/or their Staff. Keep it short and sweet – your introduction is meant to lead into issues.
Discuss workforce challenges through the lens of the NHSC:
- You are a constituent/NHSC participant, recruiter, advocate, etc.
- Who are you representing and what’s their goal?
- 1) We’re here today on behalf of the Association of Clinicians for the Underserved.
- 2) Our mission is to increase and support the nation’s healthcare workforce serving underserved communities.
- NHSC Introduction
- An important part of our work is advocating for National Health Service Corps which encourages clinicians to work in the most underserved communities of the country by providing scholarships and loan forgiveness to those clinicians.
- Share Your Story!
- *If possible, describe your personal connection to the NHSC (this includes NHSC scholars, participants, recruiters, etc.).
Step 3: NHSC Background
Justification & Urgency for National Health Service Corps Funding:
Once again, we want to use this opportunity to discuss health workforce challenges through the lens of the NHSC.
- NHSC retention
- The NHSC is one of the federal government’s most successful workforce development investments with over 80% of participants staying in underserved communities at least one year after their mandatory service commitment.
- NHSC impact
- Over 20,000 providers currently serve over 21 million people in designated Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) in every U.S. state and territory, and more than 3,500 NHSC scholars are in residency or school preparing to serve.
- Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs)
- HRSA currently estimates that more than 99 million Americans live in primary care health professional shortage areas (HPSAs), and more than 17,000 practitioners are needed to remove the HPSA designation from those areas.
- Reiterate Purpose of Meeting
- We are here today because without Congressional action, ALL funding for the NHSC will expire on March 8, 2024.
- Inadequate Current Funding Level
- Even at the current FY23 funding level, we want to point out that, the program is able to fund fewer than 50% of scholarship and 75% of loan repayment applicants and even those levels fall well short of meeting the actual need.
- How the Member/Staffer Can Help
- We would like your support to ensure that the NHSC does not have to reject the vast majority of clinicians who want to practice in underserved areas.
Step 4: NHSC Background
During House Meetings the specific ask will be to cosponsor H.R. 3080 – the Health Center Service Expansion and Provider Shortage Reduction Act. This bill would provide an additional $480 million to the National Health Service Corps’ mandatory funding level annually for five years to significantly minimize reduction of the current field strength.
During Senate Meetings the specific ask will be to cosponsor S. 2840 – the Bipartisan Primary Care and Health Workforce Act. This bipartisan bill would:
- Reauthorize the National Health Service Corps for three years, tripling mandatory funding to $950 million.
- Increased funding is estimated to support 20,000 new loan repayment awards and 2,100 scholarship awards per year to qualified healthcare providers working in underserved urban, rural, and tribal areas.
Optional (if time allows in Senate or House meetings): Please cosponsor S. 940/H.R.1711, the Rural America Health Corps Act. This bipartisan and bicameral bill would:
- Create a new loan repayment program titled “NHSC Rural Provider Loan Repayment Program” that provides loan repayments up to $200,000 in exchange for 5 years of service in rural communities.
- This demonstration program would receive $50 million annually for the next five years.
Step 5: Follow Up with Them After Congressional Meetings
Email or call. Phone calls are harder to ignore: they actually have to refuse to speak to you. ACU can help with this process. For assistance, please email ACU’s Deputy Director of Policy & Advocacy, Jordan Marshall.
Helpful Advocacy Tips to Remember
- The NHSC has a strong base of bipartisan support.
- You are there to help them best serve their constituents.
- Ultimately, your specific ask is for your member to care about the constituents they serve.
- It is important to make them care about the people in your community.
- Stay on message. This is not a debate or social visit.
- Members will try to get off message, and you have to stay on task.
- You need your member to act so people don’t suffer and die.
- Do your best to get an answer. If a congressional staffer says, “I’ll take that back to my boss,” ask, “Is that a yes or no?” You don’t have to make life easy for them. Your job is to make sure people back home get the help they need by having the NHSC program adequately funded.
- Part of your job as an advocate is to ask your peers back home to do the same.
Jordan Marshall, Your ACU Advocacy Contact
Jordan Marshall is leading ACU’s grassroots advocacy to secure long-term funding for the National Health Service Corps (NHSC). Contact Jordan with any questions regarding policy analysis or if ACU can be of assistance with your own organizational or individual advocacy.