During the COVID-19 pandemic, RheumPAC is continuing to find innovative ways to connect with and educate lawmakers about the issues facing rheumatology and to reward its most generous supporters. On Tuesday, May 12, the ACR held its first RheumPAC Happy Hour, which consisted of a virtual legislative update and Q&A with Rep. Ami Bera, MD (D-Calif.), who is one of 17 physicians serving in Congress.
ACR President Ellen Gravallese, MD, opened the call with an introduction to Rep. Bera about the importance of preserving patient access to rheumatology care through continued financial support of providers. The timing could not have been better because Democrats in the House of Representatives had released their $3 trillion coronavirus response plan earlier that day. Rep. Bera was able to offer insight into important healthcare provisions included in the plan and the next steps needed to get legislation passed in both the House and Senate.
The rest of the call consisted of a Q&A moderated by RheumPAC Chair Zachary Wallace, MD, MSc. The attendees, comprising donors who contributed at the Silver level and above ($250 or more for ACR members, $150 or more for FIT/ARP members) in 2019 and 2020, appreciated hearing firsthand from Rep. Bera the latest information about activities in Washington, D.C.
During the discussion, Rep. Bera commented that he:
- Was impressed by how rapidly the clinical trials for a COVID vaccine are moving;
- Anticipates an expansion in funding for biomedical research;
- Anticipates a long-term impact on our current employer-based healthcare coverage system; and
- Sees opportunity in the crisis to highlight ACR’s workforce initiatives, because the need for a robust healthcare workforce and recruitment to this industry are clearer than ever.
Additionally, Rep. Bera provided an informed and insightful outlook on questions regarding telehealth parity, drug pricing, workforce shortages and the status of other ACR legislative priorities.
RheumPAC will continue to communicate ACR legislative concerns to members of Congress and hopes to provide additional opportunities for virtual interactions between ACR/ARP members and legislators. Stay tuned for future events.