In my last update, I described the great news from February’s budget agreement that fixed Medicare’s payment adjustments so MIPS penalties would not include Part B drug costs, ensuring stabilization of the Medicare Part B drug system, among other successes. (Read the ACR’s press release on this topic.) I also described the Trump administration’s preliminary ideas about reducing drug prices in the U.S. Since then, the Trump administration has proposed major changes in the various drug distribution systems and requested input from stakeholders. Before I get into the drug price issue, though, here’s an update from D.C.
As you know, 2018 is an election year. All of you will have the chance to elect new members of the House of Representatives, and some of you will be able to vote for Senators. In U.S. midterm election history, the president’s party loses an average of 32 House seats and two Senate seats, so regardless of whether the Democrats or the Republicans control the next Congress, two things are nearly certain: House and Senate majorities will be slim, and there will be dozens of new leaders in Washington. The point: The ACR will need RheumPAC investments from you and your colleagues to meet these leaders, so please invest and spread the word now.
With a divided Congress and the looming hyper-partisan spectre of a possible presidential impeachment, legislation will be much less likely to pass for the foreseeable future. In this context, Congress is considering changing from annual to biennial budgets. What does this mean for rheumatology? We’ll need to work even harder to move our issues (especially funding requests) through the legislative branch via the relationships we have developed—thanks in large part to RheumPAC investments and other methods, such as coalitions, press interviews, letters to the editor, social media—all hands on deck! Also, we’ll continue to strengthen our efforts for regulatory reform. These reforms are the changes the executive branch makes through rulemaking and regulation—without Congress—relying on stakeholder input; the ACR has more than doubled its efforts on this input in the past year on your behalf.
ACR/ARHP Goes to Washington
ACR and ARHP leaders recently visited Congress and held more than 100 meetings with lawmakers and staff. (Check out the details and pictures.) We pressed Congress to act on four issues for our patients and our profession:
- Boosting the rheumatology workforce and research;
- Passing common-sense reform of step therapy;
- Rooting out PBMs; and
- Streamlining the prior authorization headache.
Our efforts have already been successful in moving the ball downfield: Senators we met with introduced a bill that requires Medicare to allow electronic prior authorizations; we’re also closer to getting a bill to limit step therapy in the Senate and possibly a $20 million rheumatology research fund at the Pentagon. I urge you to take 90 seconds right now to email a prewritten, editable note to your members of Congress through the ACR website—remember, we’ll copy your local newspapers, and about 50 of these letters get published each year, magnifying our voices. Do it now.