WASHINGTON, D.C.—The ACR hosted the 2018 Advocacy Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C., on May 16–17. Rheumatology professionals from around the country flew to our nation’s capitol to attend the conference, where advocates heard from key policymakers and spoke with lawmakers about the issues that affect the rheumatology community—and what ACR/ARHP members can do to influence policy.
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Day 1: Congressman Burgess Speaks
On Day 1 of the fly-in, after a morning of meetings of the ACR Government Affairs Committee, RheumPAC Committee, Committee on Rheumatologic Care, and Affiliate Society Council, advocates participated in an interactive education and training session focused on the asks they would be talking about in Capitol Hill meetings the next day. That evening, advocates heard from Rep. Michael Burgess (TX-26), an obstetrician who serves as chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Health. Rep. Burgess discussed the importance of implementing policies that ensure access to high-quality, affordable care for all Americans, including the 54 million living with doctor-diagnosed rheumatic diseases.
As a Congressional champion of rheumatology, Rep. Burgess has a long history of supporting legislation to improve patient choice, increase access to medically necessary treatments, expand arthritis research funding and establish new programs for early diagnosis and prevention of rheumatic diseases. Before coming to Congress, Rep. Burgess served as a doctor for nearly 30 years and is the most senior physician in the House of Representatives.
“It was refreshing for us to hear from a physician-legislator with commonsense ideas who ‘gets it’ when it comes to issues of regulation and in physicians’ offices,” said Angus Worthing, MD, chair of the ACR’s Government Affairs Committee. “Dr. Burgess freely admits that repealing the Sustainable Growth Rate and passing a new Medicare reimbursement system [MACRA] in 2015 was just the beginning, and that he and his subcommittee want to know what needs to be done to make the law better.”
Day 2: Advocates Engage Lawmakers
On Day 2, advocates engaged with their leaders on Capitol Hill through more than 100 office visits. As constituents, they shared their stories and discussed the barriers to accessing and affording rheumatology care that many patients face. To ensure Americans living with rheumatic diseases can access the care they deserve, they asked lawmakers to reform fail-first step therapy policies that prolong patients’ pain unnecessarily and allow insurance companies to practice medicine without a license. Specifically, advocates called upon Congress to pass the Restoring the Patient’s Voice Act (H.R. 2077), which would help patients receive the most effective treatments faster by placing reasonable limits on the use of step therapy.