This spring, 120 rheumatologists, rheumatology health professionals, and patient advocates travelled to Washington, D.C., for the ACR’s annual Advocates for Arthritis conference. The advocates attended more than 200 congressional meetings urging Congress to support:
- A reinstatement of consultation codes;
- A permanent fix to the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR);
- Legislation to ensure access to osteoporosis testing;
- The Arthritis Prevention, Control and Cure Act (H.R.1210/S.984); and
- A continued increase for arthritis research funding.
Prior to visiting Capitol Hill, the ACR hosted an educational session to engage members in various health policy areas. During the session, health policy leaders addressed many hot topics and areas of interest to better prepare attendees for lobbying both at Advocates for Arthritis and after they returned home. Speakers and highlights from the session included:
- Ed Herzig, MD, RheumPAC committee member, educated attendees on the importance of RheumPAC, the ACR’s nonpartisan political action committee.
- Todd Askew, director of congressional affairs for the American Medical Association (AMA), spoke about the AMA’s legislative perspective, the current climate regarding the SGR, and the latest developments in health system reform.
- Matthew D. Brown from the Physicians Regulatory Issues Team at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) provided information on the latest developments regarding the regulatory burden on physicians who participate in Medicare.
- Stephen Katz, MD, PhD, director of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), gave a presentation on current research programs and funding opportunities for rheumatologists within NIAMS.
- Carolyn M. Clancy, MD, director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, discussed quality research initiatives to improve health outcomes within the agency.
- Meena Seshamani, MD, PhD, director of policy analysis for the Office of Health Care Reform, highlighted the administration’s strategies and priorities regarding healthcare reform.
- Peter Basch, MD, medical director of ambulatory electronic health records (EHR) and health information technology (IT) policy for MedStar Health, gave an update on meaningful use.
During the training session, Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) personally accepted the 2009 ACR Award for Public Leadership in Rheumatology. She was named the award recipient for her leadership and dedication to the Medicare Fracture Prevention and Osteoporosis Testing Act (H.R. 1894), which would restore funding for preventative osteoporosis screenings. Rep. Berkley spoke about her passion for affordable bone density screenings and the need for individuals to become involved in the legislative process.