By Yen Duong
Since early August, most members of Congress have been back in their home districts for the annual summer recess, and they head back to Washington, D.C. this week.
Summer is a traditional time for lawmakers to leave Congress behind, and get in touch with constituents. Many hold town halls, tour public works and companies and meet with professional societies.
NC Health News reporters dropped in on a handful of events, such as Rep. Alma Adams’ “Health Care for All” panel discussion on Aug. 13, held at a Charlotte retirement community. The two-hour event included an hour of discussions between Adams and local health administrators and doctors, followed by a dozen constituent questions about actions in Congress.
Adams made it clear that she was not explicitly advocating for “Medicare for all”, which several constituents asked and advocated for with posters, buttons and t-shirts. The 120-some audience members received pamphlets and bags with local information and resources for health care, along with comment cards.
Mecklenburg County seniors and adults with disabilities can call Just 1 Call at 704-432-1111 to connect with social services.
“I’m hoping that all of the members of Congress are doing what I’m trying to do,” Adams said near the end of the event. “This is my third town hall in two weeks.”
Not every congressional representative was that active, but almost all held some public forum or event related to health care.
At a “Conversations with Non-Profits” event in the Triangle, Rep. David Price talked about Section 811 and Section 202 housing funds for disabled and elderly people in response to constituent questions about affordable housing. One constituent brought up changes in the Seniors’ Health Insurance Information Program, and another asked if mental health care funding was involved in Congress’ discussions on gun laws.
To learn about other constituent events, NC Health News reached out to the offices and staff of all of North Carolina’s members of Congress. If we did not get responses from staff, we searched the officials’ social media posts.
Sen. Richard Burr visited Precision Biosciences, a Durham-based genome editing company, to discuss immunotherapy research on Aug. 15, according to a spokesperson.
Even though Sen. Thom Tillis’ staff didn’t return emails for information, the senator was active on Twitter. He posted about his Aug. 16 visits to Aces for Autism, a Greenville non-profit development center for children with autism; Eastern Carolina Vocational Center, an employment organization for people with disabilities; and the Greenville VA.
Tillis tweeted about an Aug. 15 town hall for military families at Camp Lejeune, visiting Meals on Wheels in Wake County on Aug. 9 and visiting a construction site for Veterans Life Center, a temporary housing facility for veterans, in Butner on Aug. 10. He was also given an “Outstanding Community Health Center Advocate” award from Gaston Family Health Services, a community health center.
House of Representatives
N.C. 1: G.K. Butterfield met with the CEO of RTI International, a nonprofit research corporation based in Research Triangle Park, on July 10. He visited Carolina Family Health Centers, a community health center in Wilson County on Aug. 5, and on Aug. 7, he met with representatives from the American Diabetes Association and Family Medical Supply, a home medical supply store in Lexington, according to his press secretary.
N.C. 2: George Holding’s staff did not respond to multiple requests for health care-related events. Holding’s Twitter, Facebook and website list no events this summer.
N.C. 3: This seat is vacant following the death of Walter B. Jones in February. An election is scheduled for today, Sept. 10. Republican Dr. Greg Murphy, who is endorsed by national anti-abortion group Right to Life, has a platform that includes calls for repealing Obamacare. Democrat Allen Thomas, endorsed by LGBTQ group EqualityNC, has a platform that calls for creation of affordable health care.
N.C. 4: David Price met with representatives from AARP on Aug. 13 and with advocates from Rare Disease Legislative Advocates and the Healthcare Leadership Council on Sept. 4. Price also visited Sports & More Physical Therapy in Raleigh on Aug. 19, toured Duke Hospital on Aug. 27. Price also hosted a “Conversation with Nonprofits” in Research Triangle Park on Aug. 28 and toured Healing Transitions, a Raleigh recovery center and shelter, on Sept. 4, according to his communications team.
N.C. 5: Virginia Foxx toured a Harris Teeter pharmacy in Winston-Salem on
Aug. 15, and on Aug. 19 she met with the North Carolina Medical Society and Dr. Amy Guzik from the American Academy of Neurology. She also visited the surgery office of Stigall Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery in Boone on Aug. 21 and toured Fresenius Medical Care, a dialysis facility, on Aug. 23 where she met patients, according to her press secretary.
N.C. 6: Mark Walker posted photos on Facebook of a visit to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Carolina in Sanford on August 13. Piedmont Health’s Siler City community health center posted on Facebook about an Aug. 6 visit from him. Walker’s press secretary emailed that he hosted a town hall which included discussing association health plans, and he discussed mental health at Butner Federal Prison, but his staff did not respond to follow-up emails about dates and locations.
N.C. 7: David Rouzer’s communication director did not respond to emails. Rouzer tweeted on Aug. 19 about meeting with seniors and the mayor of Mt. Olive to discuss Medicare and Social Security.
N.C. 9: This seat is vacant following an absentee voting scandal from last year’s election. A special election for Congress will be held today, Sept. 10. Republican Dan Bishop has tweeted in favor of association health plans. Democrat Dan McCready has published plans to lower health care costs and to lower prescription drug costs on his campaign website.
N.C. 10: Patrick McHenry posted photos on Facebook of his tours of St. Luke’s Hospital in Polk County on Aug. 7, Rutherford Regional Hospital on Aug. 6 and a new mental health clinic at the Charles George VA medical center in Asheville on July 30. From July 31 to Aug. 7, he posted photos from his town halls in Lake Lure, Lincolnton, Gaston County, Catawba County, Cleveland County, and Forest City in Rutherford County and Buncombe County but did not give any indication whether those forums addressed health care.
His press secretary did not return emails or calls.
N.C. 11: Mark Meadows posted photos on Facebook of his visit to UNC Caldwell Healthcare Center in Lenoir on Aug. 21. He also posted about his visit to dialysis center DaVita Waynesville on Aug. 14 and three veterans’ solutions seminars in Waynesville and Fletcher on Aug. 14, and in Lenoir on Aug. 15. His communications director did not return requests for information.
N.C. 12: Alma Adams held a “Health Care for All” town hall meeting on Aug. 13. Two days later, she participated in a community conversation on gun violence with the Cynthia Graham Hurd Foundation which included the founder of Moms Demand Action Shannon Watts. She also held a “Take it to D.C.” listening session where constituents brought up health care on Aug. 27 and held a panel discussion and screening of the documentary Zero Weeks, which discusses the lack of paid family leave in America with advocacy group MomsRising on Aug. 7, according to her spokesperson.
N.C. 13: Ted Budd’s communications director sent us links to his Facebook posts, which included photos. Budd visited Duke Children’s Specialty Services clinic in Greensboro in early August and visited veterans at Caring Services, a substance abuse residential treatment center in High Point, on June 17. He also posted on Facebook about receiving a visit at his D.C. office on June 26 from a Greensboro family, whose 4-year-old had heart surgery as a baby at Duke Children’s Hospital.