The representatives, senators, and their staffs were receptive to our issues and seemed genuinely interested, and we quickly realized the powerful impact we had as healthcare professionals and patients. Our patient advocate recounted the long distances she had to travel to receive care from a rheumatologist for her inflammatory myopathy and expressed concern that the discontinuation of consultation service codes would make access to a rheumatologist even more difficult for others like herself.
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After listening to her speak and listening to my colleague discuss the difficulties of providing dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry screening to his patients, I was struck by the thought that this is how government is meant to work. Who better to communicate our concerns and views to Congress than the subject-matter experts—the providers and patients themselves?
We learned to be brief and clear with our points, providing written materials (issue briefs prepared by the ACR) and asking for legislative commitments at the end of each meeting. The work continued after we departed D.C. and arrived back home. We sent follow-up thank-you letters to the legislators and staff members, briefly reiterating the topics discussed—an effective lobbying tactic to keep our issues at the top of their minds.
The fly-in was an inspiring opportunity to represent the concerns and views of the rheumatology community to Congress. It was also a first-rate educational opportunity in the machinations of healthcare policy and legislation. I am convinced that the impact of the face-to-face meetings—strengthened by personal stories about, and professional experiences with, the real-life effects of healthcare policy decisions—exceeds any other form of political advocacy.
In addition to the Advocates for Arthritis Capitol Hill Fly-In, the ACR offers other political advocacy opportunities, many available through its website, www.rheumatology.org. The advocacy list serve is an easy way to keep abreast of issues that affect other rheumatologists and is a great place to ask for advice and share views on practice and specialty-related topics.
Rheumatologists have a unique opportunity to influence the outcome of legislative activities through the Advocates for Arthritis Capitol Hill Fly-In. I enthusiastically recommend the event. With so many healthcare policy decisions on the table, now is the time to maximize engagement in advocacy!
Dr. Edgerton is a rheumatologist at Eisenhower Army Medical Center in Fort Gordon, Ga.