16 Sep Commenting on Federal Regulations: As Easy as Posting on Facebook
Cancer is not just a medical issue; it is a public policy issue. Problems that often come up after a cancer diagnosis, including what treatments are available, how much you pay for health insurance and what services are covered, your ability to take time off work, and access to disability benefits, depend on public policy. One important part of this process are regulations.
What are regulations?
Regulations are rules passed by federal agencies that flush out the details of how laws get implemented. For example, health care regulations tell health care providers, hospitals, and insurance providers how to do their jobs.
Through advocacy, or applying pressure and influence on the people that have the power to give you what you want, you can influence these rules. While navigating treatment, follow-up care, or the financial burden of a cancer diagnosis, engaging in advocacy can seem time-consuming or difficult. But, it doesn’t have to be!
A quick and easy way to make your voice heard is to “comment” on federal regulations. Before being finalized, rules first have to be proposed by federal agencies. Then they go through a “public comment period,” which generally lasts 60 to 90 days, where anyone can make public comments about the rule. If writing a letter to your elected official seems too time-consuming, posting a comment online can be a great alternative.
How do you comment on federal regulations?
You can do this in three simple steps:
- Learn about Proposed Rules: If you want to comment on a proposed regulation, you have to start by finding regulations that matter to you. One source for this information is the Federal Register, an online government journal publishing updates on proposed rules and administrative codes available for public comment. You can check out Triage Cancer’s Federal Policy and Legislative Advocacy – Current Issues chart to see some regulations relevant to those diagnosed with cancer.
- Locate Your Rule: Once you find a rule you would like to comment on, locate the rule on Regulations.gov. You can search by rule number or title, or search by key terms.
- Submit Your Comments: Once you find your rule, look under the title of the proposed rule to see the final date for submitting comments. To the left of the rule’s text, you’ll see a speech bubble. By clicking on this icon, you can submit a public comment.
What do comments look like?
For example, take a regulation proposed by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in July (CMS-9906-P), which would increase insurance navigators’ responsibilities and expanding the annual enrollment period for Marketplace plans. Public comments for this regulation closed July 28th, but here are some helpful examples.
Examples of federal regulation comments
- “The health insurance system in the United States is killing us. My husband and I buy health insurance through the ACA exchange, which now costs over $30,000/year plus combined deductibles of another $25,000 for a silver plan in CT. We rarely see a doctor because we can't afford the bills afterward. My husband has been hounded for at least two years by debt collectors seeking $1,500 for a basic physical that was supposed to be covered under federal law. That's why I support IMPROVED MEDICARE FOR ALL and urge the Biden administration to support HR 1976 NOW.”
- “My family has a lot of privilege when it comes to enrolling in health insurance coverage. We are native English speakers, we have stable Wifi, and I research Medicaid and CHIP coverage for a living. Even with these advantages, I found myself spending hours frustratedly clicking through nonexistent web pages, automated guides, and incomprehensible glossaries. All this to try and help my sister enroll in the right plan. At the end of the day, I wasn't sure that we had picked the right one…The Biden Administration has a great opportunity to help Americans access coverage, access better coverage, and keep that coverage. I urge them to expand the open enrollment period to allow people the time they need to do research and get the right plan.”
- “I’ve been helping consumers apply for Medicaid coverage since 2010, for ACA since 2013, and for Medicare since 2018. No one understands what they’re buying or how to appropriately use coverage without help…After 4 years of Trump’s damage to the ACA, an extended enrollment season, a new SEP for low-income families, and restoration of navigator duties are all needed.”
What are key things to include in comments?
Each comment is different, but they have a few things in common:
- Personal Perspective: Each commenter shares their unique perspective on this regulation. The last commenter shares their professional perspective helping individuals sign up for health insurance. But, you don’t have to work in a field related to a regulation to have an important story to share. One commenter details his or her husband’s experience being hounded by debt collectors after taking on medical debt, without enough health insurance coverage. Another shares their families’ frustrating experience choosing a plan, even in the best of circumstances.
- Specific Recommendations: All three comments share specific recommendations for this regulation, including restoring navigator assistance and expanding the Marketplace enrollment period. By following their perspective with actionable steps, they help rule makers understand what they want, and why.
When commenting on federal regulations, you can also include research (e.g. articles or studies related to a regulation). And don't forget your contact information for follow-up, or even a formal letter. For information on writing letters to your representatives, see Triage Cancer’s Quick Guide to Legislative Advocacy.
In only a few sentences, these commenters make powerful arguments for lawmakers to consider when making decisions. If you have a few minutes free, you can make your voice heard too.
Triage Cancer is a national, nonprofit providing free education to people diagnosed with cancer, advocates, caregivers, and health care professionals on cancer-related legal and practical issues. Through events, materials, and resources, Triage Cancer is dedicated to helping people move beyond diagnosis. For more information about getting involved in cancer advocacy, visit Triage Cancer’s Advocacy Page.
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