Greetings from Washington, D.C. Your advocacy team had another busy month. Unlike my prior updates, and in order to keep our focus on health policy, I avoid mentioning anything about Washington investigations into obstruction of justice, collusion, etc. You get enough of that elsewhere.
The Healthcare Bill
Obamacare repeal and reform efforts are speeding up. As many of you know, the House passed a bill repealing and replacing components of Obamacare (see my #simpletasks update here). The Senate did not hold public hearings on its version of the healthcare bill, but like the House, wrote the bill in secret, as The New York Times reported. The ACR notified Senate leadership through letters and more than 100 in-person meetings in May about how best to protect the interests of our patients and our profession. We’re currently following up on those contacts.
Meanwhile, everyone reading this can easily send a prewritten, editable letter to their senators by visiting the ACR’s Legislative Action Center and clicking on “take action.” It takes just a minute—and now is the perfect time. Your leaders need to hear your voice.
Trump’s Skinny Budget for FY18
The ACR joined with many health advocates in opposing the Trump administration’s proposals for sweeping cuts to NIH, Medicaid, CHIP and taxpayer funding of FDA. Of note, budget proposals are just that—proposals—and Congress ultimately decides the federal budget. Thankfully, many members of Congress oppose Trump’s cuts. But Trump has created a tone of spending cuts. Meanwhile, the ACR does endorse two rheumatology-friendly parts of the budget, those that would boost funding for graduate medical education and repeal IPAB, the Medicare-cutting mechanism.
As Congress begins the budget process, your advocacy team has also established strong support for a new, dedicated arthritis funding stream through the Department of Defense (DoD). Take a minute to send an email to your member of Congress asking them to repeal IPAB and support arthritis research (go here and click on “7 advocacy campaigns” or Google “rheumatology legislative action center”).
ACR Helps Reduce Administrative Burdens
The ACR recently met with leaders of Health and Human Services (HHS) and also sent a letter to CMS Administrator Seema Verma, requesting regulatory relief to reduce administrative burdens. We advocated for modifying billing codes to reflect the value of rheumatology care, improving transparency in the way the CMS makes rules and making both tracks of MACRA (MIPS and APMs) more feasible for rheumatologists. Read the letter here.