Greetings from Washington, D.C., where ACR leaders just held more than 100 meetings on Capitol Hill supporting reforms to step therapy and prior authorization, increased reimbursement for dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), solutions to the rheumatology workforce shortage, and rheumatology-specific research at the Pentagon. We’re already hearing great news about our successes: Hours after our visit, Representatives Schakowski and Burgess introduced a bill to repay medical school loans for pediatric rheumatologists (and other specialists), to help solve a critical need for kids with arthritis. We also generated interest in the Senate to introduce a companion bill to the House’s Safe Step Act, which would allow our patients to be exempted from step therapy in cases where you predict the insurance-preferred drug will be ineffective, cause side effects or reduce adherence—or have another common sense reason.
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Keep the momentum going by taking one minute right now to send a pre-written email to Congress. Visit the ACR website (for rheumatologists and rheumatology professionals) or simpletasks.org (patients and families). Your emails will help convince your elected leaders that our initiatives matter. And follow the fun at #Act4Arthritis.
For U.S. based ACR/ARP members, after you send those emails to Congress, do two more quick things: First, decide for yourself what it’s worth to your practice and your patients for the ACR to be fighting for us in Washington, D.C., and make an investment in RheumPAC. Last year, 4% of ACR/ARP members made that calculation about the value of advocacy and supported our bipartisan political action committee (PAC) on behalf of the other 96% of members. Imagine what we would be able to accomplish if that number increased to just 10%—per the ACR’s strategic plan goals.
Second, encourage your medical group, division or state society to support the new RheumPAC Advocacy Fund. What’s that, you say? It’s a fund that allows groups of rheumatologists to support advocacy. While only individuals can give to RheumPAC to support rheumatology champions in Congress, groups can now invest in the Advocacy Fund to defray administrative costs of fundraising, fly-ins and other expenses. Email [email protected] to find out more, or send a check to RheumPAC Advocacy Fund, 2200 Lake Blvd. NE, Atlanta, GA 30319.
A Medicare Win
On May 16, the ACR logged another victory for our patients who receive in-office medications through Medicare. You may remember the ACR strenuously objected last August to the Trump administration’s announcement allowing Medicare Advantage plans to force our patients through step therapy before getting in-office infusion or injection medicines. This week, although the plan remains in effect, Medicare heeded the ACR’s request to protect patients currently receiving therapies (grandfathering/grandmothering) from going through step therapy. Instead of looking back only 108 days to check if patients are currently taking a medicine, plans must look back 365 days, where they will find many of our patients being treated at less frequent intervals.