In the field of rheumatology, we see the direct impact that healthcare policy has on our patients in regard to insurance and drug coverage, prior authorizations, reimbursement, and the importance of research in the discovery of new therapies. Although our goal is to continue to provide high-quality care to the patients we treat, we also know the challenges–and barriers–that healthcare providers face when trying to do so.
Prior to joining the Government Affairs Committee as an ARHP representative, I had little knowledge of or experience in the workings of the U.S. political system. Now, my knowledge base has increased significantly, and I have found it quite fulfilling to be part of the legislative process. I am very grateful for the opportunity to attend Advocates for Arthritis, the ACR’s annual Capitol Hill Fly-In, so that I can advocate for the patients that I work with on a daily basis. Though I am not a seasoned veteran, having been to The Hill with the ACR three times, there are three things that I have come to realize:
Now Accepting Applications for Advocates for Arthritis
Apply today to attend Advocates for Arthritis September 19–20 in Washington, D.C. Don’t miss this opportunity to educate Congress on the impact arthritis and rheumatic diseases have on one’s quality of life and the importance of care provided by a rheumatology professional. The ACR also is looking for patient advocates, so encourage your patients to apply as well. For applications and more information, go to www.rheumatology.org/advocacy.
- You do not have to be an expert on politics or health care policy to attend Advocates for Arthritis. The ACR does an excellent job in educating attendees on the issues relevant to the rheumatology community. Building your knowledge base on these subjects also helps you understand what is happening in the healthcare arena.
- Your comfort level will increase every time you attend. I’ll admit that the first time I went to Capitol Hill was anxiety provoking, but it does get easier over time. It is also enjoyable to build a relationship with your members of Congress and their staff.
- It is exciting to be part of the political process. By lobbying for important arthritis legislation, we are able to make an impact on the future of our patients and our profession. That became evident for me after attending Advocates for Arthritis in September 2010. At that time, one of our main issues was to ask our senators and representatives to sign on to a bill to support access to preventative osteoporosis testing. After meeting with one of the Iowa representatives, I received a personal phone call from his legislative aide on health to inform us that the representative had decided to sign on to the bill in support. The aide informed me that our personal visit and the information we shared was the reason that the congressman decided to support this legislation. It was invigorating to find out that we do have influence and we can affect change.
Given today’s political climate surrounding healthcare policy, the voice of the ACR—our collective voices—needs to be heard. Lobbying at Advocates for Arthritis is an integral part of how you can become involved in making a difference for rheumatology. I encourage all ACR and ARHP members, especially those who have never attended, to apply for Advocates for Arthritis. It is an eye-opening experience.