To state the obvious, 2020 was truly a year like no other. Our professional and personal lives were affected in ways none of us could have imagined. RheumPAC and ACR advocacy efforts were not spared the impacts of the pandemic.
In mid-March, we made the decision to halt RheumPAC solicitations because of the tremendous financial challenges we were all facing. I used to find solace in the profession of medicine, reminding myself that there will always be patients in need of medical providers. But this pandemic reminded us that none of us are immune to the impacts of a pandemic. In addition to worry over our own health and that of our families, providers across the spectrum of care (community practice, hospital-based, academic) faced grave financial strain and many were unsure how they would keep their doors open.
Although we halted solicitations, the work of RheumPAC and the ACR advocacy team did not lose steam. Leveraging the existing relationships that your RheumPAC contributions have helped cultivate over the years, we flexed our strength to remind Congress that rheumatology providers needed support for practices to stay open and deliver needed care for our patient population. We were pleased to see COVID-19 relief packages pass through Congress, and we anticipate additional support packages are on the horizon. We were also able to successfully advocate on behalf of our members who were suddenly thrust into the new world of telemedicine. Meanwhile, we continued to advocate for many of the priorities we had pre-COVID, including a historic win for an estimated average 14-15% increase in Medicare payments for evaluation and management services, reauthorization of the Pediatric Subspecialty Loan Repayment program, enactment of surprise billing legislation, and accruing more support for step therapy and prior authorization reform bills in the House and Senate.
Recognizing the key role of RheumPAC in facilitating our advocacy successes and the ever-increasing number of important policy discussions being had in Congress, we decided it was critical to resume fundraising in August. Adequate resources were needed to continue to educate legislators on the serious issues the rheumatology community has faced and will continue to face over the next year. We thank everyone who, despite the extraordinary circumstances, gave any amount this year to RheumPAC. I’m proud that, in the face of all that 2020 threw at us, we were still able to raise $121,250 from 286 individuals.
With a vaccine now being deployed, 2021 is looking better, but we still have our work cut out for us on Capitol Hill, and RheumPAC will be a key component in getting our legislative priorities across the finish line in a new Congress. As a reminder, our mission is to educate, support and thank our key partners in Congress. Every single dollar raised goes directly to carefully chosen campaigns that maximize our reach. With so many new faces in Congress and different legislators in key leadership positions, it will be especially important that RheumPAC continue to build relationships with the offices of the many healthcare policy stakeholders.
We are a small specialty, but your contributions to RheumPAC have amplified our voice on the Hill. To continue to support and grow that voice, we need your help. In addition to your 2021 contribution, ask your colleagues to join you in supporting the advocacy priorities that will ensure the future of rheumatology.
Visit www.rheumpac.org to help us start the year off strong by making your 2021 donation or setting up a smaller monthly recurring donation to help rheumatology.
Thank you again to everyone who has invested in RheumPAC and supported advocacy for ACR/ARP, its members and our patients. Your contributions are critical to advancing ACR/ARP advocacy!
Zach Wallace, MD, MSc, is a rheumatologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and the chair of RheumPAC, the ACR’s nonpartisan political action committee.
What is the function of RheumPAC?
RheumPAC’s mission is to educate, support and thank key partners in Congress. Advancing the ACR’s legislative priorities requires collaboration with healthcare policy stakeholders in Congressional offices. Action on Capitol Hill will not occur if legislators are unaware or not supportive of the policy needs of rheumatology patients and providers.
How is RheumPAC funded, and where does the money go?
RheumPAC is funded by individual contributions of ACR/ARP members. Every single dollar raised (no money is spent on administrative or overhead costs) goes directly to carefully chosen congressional campaigns. These campaigns are selected and approved by ACR/ARP members with the goal of maximizing our influence in enacting legislative changes. We invite all ACR/ARP members to nominate campaigns to be considered. Your donations should be seen as an investment in bringing about positive, tangible, financial outcomes due to federal policy changes.
Why is RheumPAC critical?
First, Congress is a complicated place (to say the least). It is naive to think that the messages from rheumatology patients and providers resonate through lobbying and grassroots advocacy alone. There are many competing interests with sizable resources at their disposal. For example, the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, whose priorities often differ sharply from ours, spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year on campaign contributions and lobbying the federal government. If ACR/ARP members remain on the sidelines and do not contribute to RheumPAC, our message will fall on deaf ears, drowned out by the interests of the well-funded insurance and pharmaceutical industries. To help strengthen our voice, RheumPAC often joins forces with our peer medical groups to support candidates who champion our common interests in challenges facing providers from various specialties and patients with complex conditions.
Second, believe it or not, many members of Congress, especially first‐term legislators, do not know the ACR or our issues. Some may not even know what a rheumatologist does. RheumPAC helps us build relationships with lawmakers and allows us to educate them about who we are, the valuable care we provide in their districts and how we benefit patients, physicians and the healthcare delivery system as a whole.
Myths about RheumPAC
Myth: “I don’t get involved in politics.”
You are already involved. Elected legislators make policy every day that directly impacts you. Policy decisions affect your profession, your livelihood and your ability to care for your patients. The only question is whether or not we have a seat at the table for these discussions.
Myth: “Investing in RheumPAC does not make a difference.”
Untrue. Review some of the legislative highlights from 2020 that are due in part to efforts by RheumPAC.
Myth: “PACs only exist to help one party or another.”
Untrue. RheumPAC is truly bipartisan. Our mission is to advance ACR/ARP priorities. Decisions about who to support are solely based on the senator’s or representative’s ability to pass legislation that is beneficial to rheumatology patients and providers.
Why is 2021 an important year for legislative action?
With so many new faces elected to Congress and new legislators in key leadership positions, it will be especially important that RheumPAC continue to build relationships with the offices of the many healthcare policy stakeholders.
Additionally, a new administration brings about a strong possibility of sweeping legislative changes in the first year of the 117th Congress. Now more than ever, with so much stake in the future of healthcare, we need financial commitment from ACR/ARP members to bring about the change we want to see.