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Explore This IssueJanuary 2017
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“It is key for continual ACR advocacy to keep the focus on issues important to physicians and patients,” he said.
Dr. Harvey, who is also an assistant professor in the Department of Rheumatology at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, spoke during the 2016 ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting at a session updating attendees on current and ongoing legislative and regulatory issues.
A cheat sheet handed out to participants provided a quick summary of the advocacy work done in 2016 by the ACR and rheumatology advocates, including having CMS agree to add more flexibility to the MACRA payment program and allow avoidance of penalties in 2017; garnering strong bipartisan opposition to the proposed Part B drug payment program; advocating for increases in research appropriations; helping increase patient access to treatment through advocacy with payers; and supporting 11 state legislative wins— among other work.
Other highlights include growing participation by rheumatologists in advocacy work, as demonstrated by more than 7,800 emails sent to Congress on policy issues, more than 250 meetings by ACR/ARHP members in congressional offices and more than 40 RheumPAC-supported fundraisers for congressional candidates.
Update on Key Issues
Among the issues that Dr. Harvey said the ACR has been fighting to prevent “tooth and nail” is the Part B Drug payment demonstration (demo) proposed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Saying that passage of the Part B resolution would negatively affect some of the most vulnerable patients that rheumatologists see, Dr. Harvey said the ACR is “sparing no time, energy or expense on overturning it.” [Note: Following the Annual Meeting, these efforts appeared to pay off, with no final rule released.]
Another issue that Dr. Harvey thought could gather speed now that the Republicans will hold a majority in the Congress and given promises by President-Elect Trump to increase military spending is the need to increase investment in rheumatology research. Currently, the ACR is advocating for the creation of a $20 million dedicated arthritis research program at the Department of Defense [DOD]. “Now is the perfect time to get line-item research on arthritis through the DOD,” he said.