Get Involved in Advocacy
The ACR Board of Directors will converge on Washington, D.C., this month to meet with members of Congress and advocate on behalf of ACR members. They will carry three critical messages to Capitol Hill: access to rheumatology, access to treatments, and funding for research.
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Explore This IssueMay 2013
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Access to Rheumatology
The ACR is urging members of Congress to support the bipartisan efforts of the House Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means committees to overhaul the defective Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) payment formula. The ACR continues to work with the staff and leadership of these committees as they craft their plan to replace the SGR with a more viable physician-payment system. It is critical that the new system has multiple options and recognizes the specialized care rheumatologists provide. The ACR is also carrying the message that cuts to physician reimbursements, including the 2% sequester cut to Medicare, have seriously detrimental effects on rheumatologists’ ability to see Medicare patients and operate practices. The sequester cuts must be reversed.
Access to Treatments
The ACR is asking members of Congress to cosponsor H.R. 460, the Patients’ Access to Treatments Act of 2013. This bipartisan legislation, which has been championed by the ACR and other members of the Coalition for Accessible Treatments, enables patient access to critical treatments by limiting cost sharing for medications in a specialty-drug tier to the dollar amount a plan requires for drugs in its highest nonpreferred brand–drug tier. The bill currently has 29 Democratic and 11 Republican cosponsors. The ACR serves as co-chair of the 20-member Coalition for Accessible Treatments.
Funding for Research
When the federal government’s sequestration cuts were enacted earlier this year, funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was cut by more than 5%. The ACR is very concerned about the implication of these cuts for medical innovation, particularly the potential effect on new treatments for arthritis and rheumatic diseases. It is important that Congress understands the impact of these cuts and increases funding to improve lives, create jobs, and decrease healthcare costs.
Think Nationally, Advocate Locally
You can help ensure the future of rheumatology and your patients’ continued access to quality care by sharing your thoughts on the above priorities with your legislators. Members of Congress have regular district work periods when they are available to meet with constituents in their local offices. This is an important opportunity to educate legislators and build relationships. Take the step of scheduling a meeting during an upcoming district work period: May 27–31, July 1–5, or August 5–September 6. If you would like assistance scheduling or preparing for a meeting—or if you would like to share photos and results from your visit—contact ACR staff at email@example.com or by calling (404) 633-3777.
The ACR Needs YOU to Get in the Game
Recent Congressional actions have significantly affected rheumatology. The sequester, which took effect on March 1, cut Medicare physician payments by 2% and funding for research by nearly 5%. As we deal with the effects of these changes, one thing is clear: we must make advocacy efforts on behalf of ourselves, our patients, and our profession a priority. If we are not willing to stand up for rheumatology, no one else will.
We all know it is not enough to simply talk to each other about the challenges we face. Each of us must make the personal commitment and the time to reach out to our legislators and educate them. Congress makes decisions on a daily basis that affect the way we practice medicine and get reimbursed. Legislators control how funds are allocated, including funding for NIH research. As they make these important healthcare decisions, it is critical that they know more about rheumatologists and our patients. You can play a leading role in making sure they are informed.
Fortunately, we can all engage and educate lawmakers without traveling to Washington, D.C. Members of Congress have district work periods nearly every month when they meet with constituents. To schedule a meeting, call your member’s closest district office. Another option is to invite your representative to your office where they can see the care you provide to your patients, who are also their constituents. These meetings will give you a chance to discuss the important issues facing rheumatology and lay the foundation for a relationship where you are a valuable resource on future healthcare issues.
You can also advocate for rheumatology by writing to lawmakers. The ACR website contains many examples of letters that have been sent to Congress and the presidential administration. These provide a good starting point and can be personalized to effectively convey your point of view. Another section of the ACR website, the Legislative Action Center, provides a platform for e-mailing Congress. Here, you can use suggested text on ACR legislative priorities or draft your own message to lawmakers.
Motivated advocates are the key to successfully influencing public policy. Will you get in the game and help show our members of Congress the vital role we play in their communities?
If you would like to get involved but are not sure where to start, ACR Government Affairs staff is eager to talk to you. They are able to assist with everything from obtaining contact information to scheduling meetings and providing talking points. Please take the first step to becoming an advocate by reaching out to them at (404) 633-3777 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Laing is chair of the ACR’s Government Affairs Committee.