by Brielle Stoyke, CNM, Minnesota Chapter Legislative Contact
Senator Al Franken and Brielle Stoyke, CNM
In December 2007, I was invited to a fundraiser for Al Franken. Franken was running for a Minnesota Senate seat. I went that night thinking maybe there would be an opportunity to talk to him directly about S. 662, the Midwifery Care Access and Reimbursement Equity Act, just in case he was elected. I didn’t get to talk to him long enough to mention midwifery, but I got my photo taken with him, which I tucked away for later.
He ended up winning the Senate seat, and I attended his celebration party in St. Paul. He had only been in office a few days and did not have a full staff yet. I didn’t even get near him that night, but was able to get the name of his new legislative health aide. So, I went home and e-mailed her about being a midwife, and specifically about S.662, and was sure to attach the photo of Franken and me from the 2007 party. Next, I e-mailed many of the CNMs in MN urging them to ask the senator to cosponsor S. 662.
Just a few weeks later, I was in my hometown of Duluth, MN, where I was offered an extra ticket to an event that Senator Franken was attending. I went with some friends, and we arrived an hour early. The venue staff were not seating yet, so we went across the street for a drink. When we arrived, we were pleased to find a private party in honor of the senator. I instantly recognized the staffer from the celebratory party in St. Paul and was talking with her, when I noticed a lull at the senator’s circle. So, I approached him and told him that I was a nurse-midwife from St. Paul and that I wanted him to cosponsor S. 662. He asked about the bill, and I told him it would increase reimbursement rates to midwives under Medicare. He looked puzzled. So, instead of explaining the details, I told him that I had been in contact with his legislative health aide, that S. 662 would provide equal pay for equal work, that his Senate partner Amy Klobuchar had signed the bill already, and that the bill had no opposition. He then asked me about my training, and I was proud to tell him I had a master’s degree in nursing, with a focus on midwifery. Right then one of my friends approached us with a camera and captured ‘my moment’ with the Senator on camera again! I followed up with his legislative health aide later that week and sure enough, he signed onto S. 662 just six short days later!
What did I learn from this experience? Success comes after persistence and teamwork. Never let an opportunity pass to talk to your legislator about what you do and why midwives deserve equitable reimbursement. Thanks to my fellow MN midwives for following up as well, and thanks to Senator Franken for supporting our bill!