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Explore This IssueDecember 2013
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When a few hundred rheumatologists raise their voices on a Medicare issue, for a while it may seem like a cry in the wilderness. When a few hundred rheumatologists enlist the support of a few hundred thousand of their patients, families, and friends on a Medicare issue, the message is suddenly on the Congressional radar in a big way. However, what happens next is the critical part.
Consider the discussion between a member of Congress and staff: “We’re getting all these calls and e-mails about some arthritis drug and Medicare. What’s this arthritis issue all about? Can we get more information? Weren’t those arthritis people, you know, the ones who gave us those bent-up fork lapel pins? They were just here a few weeks ago. Wasn’t Dr. Smith, who attended our last fundraiser, a rheumatologist? Do we have his card? Get his information from our files and call him. Here’s a card from their legislative guy, Adam Cooper. Let’s put a call in to him as well.” It is at that point, when they call us, that we as an organization know political success.
Many have the misconception that RheumPAC’s mission is to simply distribute funds to campaigns of those who might vote our way. In reality, the most important thing that RheumPAC does is open doors and establishes relationships with key members of Congress so that when we can get an issue on their radar, they actually look to us for trustworthy and reliable information. Our recent experience with the Medicare carriers and the self-administered drug (SAD) list (see “ACR Helps Keep Three Biologics Off the SAD List” at www.The-Rheumatologist.org for more information) and the movement toward resolving the issue is evidence that we have relationships in place that can effect immediate administrative change. A few phone calls from a congressional office to a Medicare carrier can result in some sudden changes. Our relationship building is an ongoing, improving, growing, dynamic process that amplifies our voices and elicits response. We can expect results like the change in this most recent egregious Medicare Administrative Contractor policy.
Amazingly, RheumPAC has done this with less than 3%—yes, 3%—of our membership’s support. Imagine what we could do with 10, 20, or 30%! Your RheumPAC committee, in existence now for six years, has begged, badgered, and bugged our members for support in every conceivable manner. Every single dollar of these contributions has been used to open doors and build relationships with key congressional leaders. We are not Republicans or Democrats, liberals or conservatives, but we are in the Rheumatology Party. We seek out key members of Congress that we can work with on rheumatology issues.