The ACR Government Affairs Committee has been hard at work advocating on behalf of members regarding issues critical for rheumatology practices and patients.
At the 2019 ACR/ARP Annual Meeting, members can hear more about key accomplishments from the past year in a session titled Raise Your Voice! Advocacy Update from Government Affairs, scheduled for 1 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 11.
Attendees will also hear a message that should resonate from previous years: The success of advocacy work depends on active participation of all ACR/ARP members.
Angus Worthing, MD, chair of the ACR Government Affairs Committee, underscores the success the committee has had in the past year and the essential roles that members and patients have played in achieving this success. “Rheumatologists and our patients have truly punched above our weight by securing critical advocacy victories despite our small numbers,” he says. “There’s no substitute for individual participation in advocacy to keep the momentum going.”
The session will be moderated by Christina Downey, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Loma Linda University Medical Center, California, and Courtney Crayne, MD, a pediatric rheumatologist at the University of Alabama, Birmingham. Three presentations will update attendees on advocacy achievements and the work of the Government Affairs Committee, teach strategies to assess legislation that affects rheumatology and help members learn to engage in advocacy work on behalf of the ACR.
Advocacy Achievements & Ongoing Efforts
Dr. Worthing will open the session with a recap of the front-line victories won on behalf of rheumatologists and patients over the past year. These include better access to and reimbursement for evaluation and management services, as well as protection of infusion drug services and ultrasound.
“I’ll also review current challenges facing the rheumatology profession in Washington, D.C., such as the workforce gap, step therapy and administrative headaches, including prior authorization. All of these are barriers to patient treatment,” says Dr. Worthing.
Ongoing areas of focus for the committee include drug pricing, patient access to therapies (e.g., biologics, small-molecule targeted immune modulators), research funding for rheumatology, Medicare reimbursement for cognitive services, diagnostic ultrasound and workforce shortages in rheumatology.
Dr. Worthing will also describe why advocacy work is important to members, their patients and their practices.
Two presentations will help members learn how to support advocacy efforts. Will Harvey, MD, MSc, director of clinical informatics integration at Tufts Medical Center, Boston, will speak about practical ways for members to make their voices heard. Attendees will learn how to use the ACR Legislative Action Center and Regulations.gov to submit comments on current bills and regulations, as well as how to advocate for rheumatology through social media.
State Rep. Kim Schofield (D-Atlanta) will talk about advocacy efforts from the perspective of a lawmaker and what it means to hear about constituent’s concerns.
The session will also include a short advocacy training session to give attendees a brief hands-on lesson in how to engage in advocacy work.
Take Home Message
“We hope members leave the session with an understanding of how the policies put in place at the federal level affect how rheumatologists practice medicine and get paid,” says Dr. Downey. “We hope members also leave the session feeling empowered that they have a voice in how policies are written and implemented.”
Mary Beth Nierengarten is a freelance medical journalist based in Minneapolis.