Members of Congress will spend the month of August working in their districts and meeting with constituents. With the November elections approaching quickly, members are particularly eager to meet with constituents. This is an ideal time to arrange a meeting at your lawmakers’ local district offices. This important opportunity allows you to educate lawmakers on the critical issues facing the rheumatology community and position yourself as a resource on future healthcare issues.
August recess is scheduled for Aug. 4–Sept. 7. Lawmakers’ schedules fill up quickly, so planning ahead is important—July is the best time to request an August meeting.
In-person meetings are critical because they allow you to develop a personal relationship with your lawmakers and their staff. As you continue to grow this relationship, lawmakers will feel comfortable turning to you as a trusted resource on important healthcare issues.
How Do I Schedule a Meeting in the Local Office?
Use the Legislative Action Center (http://www.rheumatology.org/actioncenter) on the ACR website to find your legislator’s contact information. When you call your lawmakers’ local office, a member of their staff will answer the phone. Identify yourself as a constituent and tell them that you would like to meet with the member during the August recess to discuss current legislative issues that affect your practice and your patients. The staff member will be happy to find a mutually convenient time for you to stop by.
What Issues Should I Discuss?
H.R. 460—the Patients’ Access to Treatments Act
Biologic drugs, such as those used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus and other rheumatic diseases, are breakthrough treatments that often prevent disability, save and improve lives, and allow patients to function and remain in the workforce. Insurance plans are increasingly placing biologic drugs on specialty, requiring a percentage of the drug cost, preventing many patients from accessing these critical medications. H.R. 460, Introduced by Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) and Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.), would limit cost sharing on specialty tiers to what plans require for nonpreferred brand drugs. Please ask members of the House of Representatives to cosponsor this legislation and ask senators to support companion legislation in the Senate.
H.R. 1416—Protect Patient Access to In-Office Treatments
Sequestration cuts to Medicare payments went into effect April 1, 2013. The reductions are affecting reimbursement for both services and infusion drugs, effectively decreasing Part B drug reimbursement from ASP+6 to ASP+4.3. These cuts threaten the ability of rheumatologists to provide critical therapies to patients. Patients may be forced to seek the same treatment in the hospital setting, at a higher cost to patients and the system—and often with significant additional burdens. Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) introduced H.R. 1416, which would exempt physician-administered drugs under Medicare part B from sequestration. Please ask members of the House of Representatives to cosponsor this legislation and ask senators to support companion legislation in the Senate.
Reverse Course on NIH Funding
Federally funded biomedical research creates jobs, invests in local economic growth, increases innovation, confirms the next generation of scientists, reduces healthcare costs and improves American health. NIH’s capacity to fund biomedical research continues to decline. The NIH budget in FY2013 was $29.15 billion, a 5% decrease from FY2012. Reduced funding threatens America’s status as the world’s leader in medical innovation and delays progress toward lifesaving research, better prevention strategies and new treatments for arthritis and rheumatic diseases. Further cuts in NIH support will only serve to worse the funding crisis and dissuade health professionals from choosing careers in research. Please ask lawmakers to push for $32 billion in NIH funding in the FY2015 Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations bill.
What Other Opportunities Are There to Meet with My Lawmaker?
Inviting lawmakers to visit your office is a powerful way to demonstrate the important care you provide. It’s also an opportunity to show them how the decisions they make in Washington affect you and your patients. If you are interested in hosting a lawmaker at your office and would like assistance in arranging the visit, contact ACR Government Affairs staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.