For the third week of the 2023 legislative session, Florida Voices for Health and members of the grassroots Health Care for Florida coalition focused on virtual and in-district meetings with legislators and their staff. Our goal for our third week was to bring home the issues we’re campaigning around to ensure local district offices are equally connected to our cause and likewise feel equal pressure from our advocacy efforts. We want to ensure that elected officials see the ties between our engagement in Tallahassee around dental health, disability access, and closing the coverage gap and the lived experiences of these issues within their own base.
We had a variety of incredible coalition members from across the state come forward specifically offering support with our virtual and in-district meetings. Some of which have been signed on to help us with this aspect of our Impacting the Legislative Session push since we first invited coalition members to join us. Others, I’m delighted to share, have been galvanized to sign on by the momentum we have achieved so far this session. All however share a common thread though that feels critical to highlight. For some of these Floridians, the capitol is too far away to travel to, too physically inaccessible. Other coalition members with dependents would be required to secure childcare or caregiver services in order to speak to lawmakers in the capitol. For others travel to Tallahassee is impossible due to their work schedules, or the fact it would impact their availability for job interviews.
Given all these barriers faced by the coalition members who signed on to meet with legislators this week virtually, we’ve been especially disappointed to find this was by far the most challenging week in terms of scheduling appointments. Despite our equal (if not greater!) efforts to engage with elected officials local to FVH team members and our coalition members Senate and House districts, we’ve had far fewer responses to our requests (and our follow ups to our requests) for meetings this week than any other. Some staffers have told us this is one of their busiest weeks and meeting isn’t possible, if we’re very lucky we’ve been offered meetings next week instead. Many elected officials and their teams have not responded to our requests at all. Moreover, among the 6 or so meetings we did secure this week, we experienced several no-shows by officials and staff – something we’d previously not seen in our 25+ visits in-person in Tallahassee.
While this week has been unexpectedly challenging, we have had some successes to celebrate. The meetings we have secured in which officials and staff joined us have been incredibly positive, and it’s been very uplifting to know we have legislative allies on both sides of the aisle minutes from our doorsteps. We’ve also encountered multiple staffers this week who have shared back their own health care stories: of falling in the coverage gap, navigating adult dental issues without insurance, of suddenly losing KidCare eligibility in the middle of critical services due to a marginal income increase.
Moreover, after encountering multiple elected officials and staffers who were unaware of and unprepared for the upcoming Public Health Emergency unwind and end of continuous Medicaid coverage, Florida Voices for Health has developed an informational packet using an English/Spanish toolkit from the Family Healthcare Foundation to equip elected officials and their teams to help their constituents navigate the unwind. The staffers we’ve shared this packet with have expressed excitement and sincere gratitude, and one let us know that the majority of calls she gets are for support with Medicaid. These teams are now connected to a broader network of navigators, and also appreciate the capacity of FVH to help amplify the stories of constituents facing barriers to care.
We are looking forward to returning to the capitol over the next two weeks, and for more momentum during our upcoming in-person meetings. Next week, we’ll be partnering with Catalyst Miami for Dade Days at the capitol as well as strategizing around attending committee hearings related to health access and conducting follow up visits with key legislative members we’ve successfully met with to date.
The coalition will be in Tallahassee and meeting legislators in-district for each of the next 3 weeks. If you’d like to participate, please fill out this form.
Here are some pictures from Week 3 (March 20 through 24)