The ACR advocates for rheumatology on many levels, and Rebecca Shepherd, MD, MBA, FACR, FACP, new chair of the Insurance Subcommittee (ISC) of the ACR’s Committee on Rheumatologic Care (CORC), has a special interest in the advocacy between ACR member practices and both private and government payers.
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“We are practicing in an exciting time, when new medications and treatment options for complex diseases are now available to rheumatologists and their patients, but this is only possible if a patient’s insurance company approves access to these important treatments,” Dr. Shepherd notes. “For better or for worse, healthcare in the U.S. depends on a third-party payer system; however, this system is not necessarily designed for patients and providers, and that’s where the ISC comes in.”
As an interface between rheumatology practices and insurance companies, the ISC plays an important role in following changes in insurance policies and advocating for rheumatology practice perspectives—and often, it’s practices that bring insurance concerns to light. For example, practices routinely contact the ISC when a payer tries to force stable patients to switch treatments or require practices to obtain medications through a specialty pharmacy. The ISC continues to work closely with ACR staff and other organizations to share such concerns, which has led to successful changes with this issue and many other payer policies.
“We are here to support the relationship between payers and practices and make it work for our members, to help them provide the best care available for their patients,” Dr. Shepherd says.
Driven to Advance Patient Care
Dr. Shepherd brings a perspective to rheumatology care and practice advocacy that is both global and local. Born in Scotland, she moved to Texas and grew up shuttling back and forth between Scotland and Texas before attending medical school at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tenn. Here, she chose rheumatology as a third-year medical student after seeing a young patient in emergency care for multi-system organ disease that had not been diagnosed. “This young man was very ill, and it was amazing to see how the rheumatology team swooped in, diagnosed lupus and quickly helped him regain health,” she explains. “Seeing this inspired me to pursue my own rheumatology practice.”
After completing her internal medicine residency and rheumatology fellowship at Washington University in St. Louis, she landed her first job in rheumatology care at Lancaster General Health, Pa., where she has built her career. Currently she is chief of rheumatology and director of the hospital’s Osteoporosis Service Line.