Post #953: I emailed my Senators and my Congressman

Posted on January 15, 2021

I’m not going to give directions in how to email your own Senator or Member of Congress.  All of them have email forms that you can use, and it’s easy enough to find them via Google.

Instead, this is the content of what I have sent to Senators Warner and Kaine,  and Congressman Connolly, regarding using Medicare to supply N95 masks (respirators) to the elderly.

As I understand it, the trick is to make it clear what you are asking for, up front.  You are trying to get the attention of the low-paid staff member who will actually be reading this.  Even so, unless they get a flood of letters asking for the same thing, this will likely do little more than add +1 to their count of messages about coronavirus.

That said, you have to try.  So here goes.

Dear Senator Warner:

In this email, I lay out the reasons why the Federal government should supply N95 masks (respirators) to the elderly via the Medicare program.  And I ask that you introduce legislation to make this happen.

You already know that N95 masks (respirators) provide substantially better protection against COVID-19 than cloth masks or surgical/procedure masks.  And that the elderly are at much higher risk of adverse outcomes.

But U.S. citizens cannot obtain N95 masks.  Those were pulled from all normal retail channels during the acute shortage of N95 masks in early 2020.  And now, even though there is no longer a shortage of N95 masks, those are still being withheld from retail sale.

The Federal government already has the infrastructure to get those effective N95 masks into the hands of the elderly.  Both Medicare Part B and Part D routinely deliver monthly supplies (DME and drugs) by mail to tens millions of Medicare beneficiaries.  It would be no strain on the system to deliver (say) three N95 masks per month to every enrollee who wanted them.

To do this, those masks would have to be a covered benefit under Medicare.  That would likely require legislation.  And doing so in a timely fashion would require allowing Medicare to skip parts of the Administrative Procedures Act. Which again would require legislation.

Hence this letter, because this can’t be done without Congressional action.

In the current climate, mask use is one of the things that strongly and visibly separates Democrats and Republicans.  It’s one thing to say “wear a mask”.  It’s a different thing entirely to go to the effort and expense to provide the most vulnerable segment of the U.S. population with an effective mask.  And that means an N95 respirator, via Medicare.

Finally, I note that Germany has already done this.  On 12/15/2020, they instituted a program to provide high-filtration respirators to every person 60 or older.  If the Germans have figured this out, surely we can too.