Participants converged on D.C. May 15 to meet each other, as well as ACR staff, discuss these issues and undergo a few hours of advocacy training at a hotel just north of the Congressional buildings. Many also attended an advocacy dinner featuring a speech by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).
After a brisk breakfast Thursday morning, they split into small groups divided by delegation, hailed rideshares or taxis and headed to the Hill. Most groups met with staff or leaders of at least a few Congressional offices over the next few hours; the final tally: 67 rheumatology leaders spoke with a combined 110 Congressional personnel. The ACR leaders represented the ACR’s Board of Directors, Affiliate Society Council, Government Affairs Committee, Committee on Rheumatologic Care, RheumPAC and Insurance Subcommittee; they came from 31 states and D.C.
The ACR is far from finished lobbying Congress regarding these issues and others. While some rheumatology leaders may have felt cynical before meeting with Hill personnel, they emerged from the meetings content and optimistic their voices had at least been heard and they had achieved some momentum for advancing the key issues through Congress. This is not a rapid process, and the ACR is in it for the long haul. Participants in September’s event also advocated for Congress to address step therapy, the decline in DXA scans and dedicated arthritis research funding at the DoD. In April, the ACR led 25 patient and provider organizations in urging the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to address an issue with step therapy.
“Our ability to show support and interest in legislators through conversations and through financial contributions is key to advancing our advocacy efforts,” Gary Bryant, MD, former RheumPAC chair, former ACR Board member, and chair of the ACR’s delegation to the AMA House of Delegates, told the ACR recently. “It is important to participate in advocacy both through contributions and by keeping abreast of ACR issues.”
RYAN BASEN is a journalist in the Washington, D.C., area.