Regulatory actions have a major effect on the daily lives of rheumatologists. In 2020, with a pandemic underway, that’s truer than ever. On Monday, Nov. 9, during the session From the Clinic to Capitol Hill (and Back!) at ACR Convergence 2020, get an update on the key regulatory issues affecting rheumatology and how ACR leadership and volunteers are advocating for the needs of rheumatologists and rheumatology professionals and their patients.
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The session will give an overview of the ACR’s advocacy efforts and show attendees how they can add their voices to strengthen those efforts. It will also include a legislative perspective of the advocacy landscape for 2021 from a yet-to-be-announced member of Congress.
“Every provider should have some knowledge of the process that governs our practice,” says Government Affairs Committee Chair Blair Solow, MD, assistant professor of medicine, Division of Rheumatic Diseases, UT Southwestern, Dallas.
Topics to be covered at the session include bills in Congress that would improve patient access to care, regulatory matters, such as the Physician Fee Schedule, and state legislation.
The Physician Fee Schedule proposed rule, which includes an increase in reimbursement for rheumatologists in 2021, is an example of the key role that advocacy has in benefiting rheumatologist practices, says Zach Wallace, MD, MSc, chair of RheumPAC, the ACR’s political action committee. Dr. Wallace is also a rheumatologist and researcher in the Rheumatology Unit and Clinical Epidemiology Program, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, and an assistant professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School.
During the session, Dr. Solow and other speakers will look ahead to anticipated key issues in 2021, such as liability protection for providers, telehealth extensions, workforce expansion bills and pediatric loan repayment program funding.
“A great perk of this session is that it doesn’t just cover what’s happening in Congress but will also cover advocacy at regulatory agencies, like the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, where key decisions are often made,” Dr. Wallace says.
Attendees also will learn how they can participate in advocacy efforts. “Strategies can be as simple as sending a letter, or more involved, such as going to Washington, D.C. We are here to support and educate,” Dr. Solow says.
Speakers will also address COVID-19 and its extensive impacts on rheumatology providers and patients. “It has been an existential threat to the survival of many of our practices, and the ACR has been tirelessly advocating for relief funding from Congress in addition to important reforms to telemedicine reimbursement. This will continue to be an issue into 2021,” Dr. Wallace says.
Hydroxychloroquine drug shortages, the emergence of telehealth as a major medium to provide care and vaccine distribution policies all have come to the forefront due to the pandemic, says Amanda Grimm Wiegrefe, director of regulatory affairs for the ACR.
“As we continue to navigate this public health emergency, so many of the policies set forth have a direct impact on how our members practice medicine. Attending this session will help them understand the connection between regulatory policies and their everyday practice,” Ms. Wiegrefe says.
From Clinic to Capitol Hill (and Back!) will be held Monday, Nov. 9, from 11–11:45 a.m. EST. Ethan Craig, MD, MHS, will moderate the session.
Vanessa Caceres is a freelance medical writer in Bradenton, Fla.