On Jan. 31, the ACR partnered with the Arthritis Foundation to host an Arthritis 101 Congressional briefing on Capitol Hill. Panelists educated new and returning members of Congress and their staffers about arthritis and other rheumatic diseases, the cost and impact of rheumatic disease to constituents and the U.S. healthcare system, and current policy challenges and opportunities.
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Speaking on behalf of the ACR were Angus Worthing, MD, FACP, FACR, chair of the ACR’s Government Affairs Committee, and Colin C. Edgerton, MD, FACP, RhMSUS, former Army physician and member of the ACR’s Committee on Rheumatologic Care. Other panelists included Shannan O’Hara Levi, a juvenile arthritis patient and Arthritis Foundation advocate, and Cavan Redmond, former CEO of WebMD, pharmaceutical healthcare executive and Arthritis Foundation board member.
The event was co-sponsored by Congressional Arthritis Caucus co-chairs Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and David McKinley (R-WV) and moderated by former U.S. Senator Tim Hutchinson (R-AR).
The briefing was well attended, with Congressional staffers from both House and Senate leadership present.
“Arthritis is not a Republican or a Democratic disease,” said Rep. Anna Eshoo in opening remarks to the audience. “Chronic diseases bear none of those labels, so it really behooves us to work together.”
Rep. Eshoo went on to highlight the scope of arthritis and other rheumatic diseases, the current specialist shortage and the importance of biomedical research to unlock new treatments and cures. “We need to promote biomedical research so that, one day, we don’t need to have a Congressional Arthritis Caucus,” Rep. Eshoo said. The California Congresswoman closed by encouraging other members of Congress to join the bipartisan Arthritis Caucus.
The Personal Perspective
Ms. O’Hara Levi was the first panelist to speak. “I was diagnosed at age 3 with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and was told by doctors that I would be in a wheelchair by age 6,” she began. “This is not just an elderly person’s disease.” Ms. O’Hara Levi told the audience that her ability to stand, walk, be a social worker with a rewarding career and have a family were possible only because she had access to specialists and treatments.
The Scope of the Problem
Dr. Worthing spoke next, giving the audience an overview of the ACR and the cost and impact of rheumatic diseases.
“Ensuring quality care for people living with rheumatic diseases has never been more important,” Dr. Worthing stated. “Many people are surprised to learn that rheumatic diseases, including arthritis, are the nation’s leading cause of disability. More than 52 million Americans—one in five people—live with painful, debilitating and life-threatening rheumatic diseases, [such as] arthritis and lupus.”