For more than a decade, the ACR’s Government Affairs Committee (GAC) has given rheumatologists a voice in the halls of Congress. Since 2007, that voice has been amplified by RheumPAC, the bipartisan political action committee for ACR/ARHP members that helps advance the policy goals of the College, rheumatology professionals and their patients.
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“RheumPAC allows us time with and access to legislators and their staff,” says Herbert S.B. Baraf, MD, FACP, MACR, a rheumatologist, current treasurer of RheumPAC and one of its top contributors, “It enables us to educate them on the policy issues that affect our members and their patients so they are better informed of the impact the policies and laws they craft have on the lives of their constituents.”
Now, with profound healthcare changes on the horizon, RheumPAC hopes to educate ACR and ARHP members on the importance of investing in advocacy.
PACs Get Things Done
“I, like most physicians, was not really enamored with the idea of PACs in general, but I have learned through my involvement that my personal feelings about PACs and their ability to have influence and gain access to elected officials is just reality,” says Harry Gewanter, MD, FAAP, FACR, a pediatric rheumatologist and current chair of RheumPAC. “If we want to get things done, we have to play the game.”
For example, the ACR was instrumental in the one-year delay of ICD-10 implementation, Dr. Gewanter says. “This and the ACR’s many other legislative and regulatory achievements likely would not have occurred without RheumPAC’s contributions.”
“Through our work, we have been able to really advance the ACR’s presence and earn name recognition in Washington,” he adds, also giving much of the credit to GAC Chair Will Harvey, MD, MSc, FACR.
Support Makes Things Happen
That said, less than 6% of ACR/ARHP members have ever invested in RheumPAC, says Dr. Baraf. “We would like the number of rheumatologists that support RheumPAC to grow, [and we’d like supporters to] pitch in with idea generation and financial support.”
This support is critical to the ACR’s ability to gain access to and develop relationships with members of Congress, Dr. Baraf adds. “Getting our ideas conveyed to Congress is how legislation gets written and how regulations are enacted; it’s how our voices are heard, how our patients are treated and how their access to medications is maintained.”
For example, nearly 100 rheumatology advocates visited Capitol Hill earlier this month, and their efforts—including pushing legislators for increased biomedical research funding, for recognition of September as Rheumatic Disease Awareness Month and to eliminate Medicare’s annual physical therapy services cap—have been bolstered by RheumPAC.