It’s September, and that means that again this year many ACR/ARHP members and their patients were on Capitol Hill Advancing Rheumatology! by discussing important issues and continuing to build relationships with decision makers. I am proud of this work done during the annual Advocates for Arthritis event. I thought I would take this opportunity to provide an update on legislative activities. As we all know, the government influences our subspecialty in numerous and potent ways. I cannot cover every issue we are addressing, but I will highlight some of the most significant on which your colleagues and the ACR are focusing.
Advocacy has always been near to my heart. I have been delighted to watch how the scope and effectiveness of the Committee on Government Affairs (GAC) has grown, and I am proud of our sophisticated approach to federal and, now, state issues. Through the efforts of our volunteer leaders, staff, lobbyists and advocates, we are able to stay nimble and make headway in Washington, D.C. The Simple Tasks campaign has also been of great value in helping legislators know us and remember us (www.simpletasks.org). In an election year, with so many issues (including international crises) competing for attention, we still have managed to move your priorities forward. Most of our issues currently fall into three categories: access to rheumatology, access to treatment and funding for research.
If rheumatologists & rheumatology health professionals are not adequately paid, then patients’ access to our expert care will be jeopardized.
Access to Rheumatology
The sustainable growth rate (SGR) payment formula, which continues to mandate massive cuts and requires congressional rescue each year, remains a focus. I know some members think our annual struggle for relief from the anxieties of the SGR is a Sisyphean task, but the ACR and GAC do not, and so it continues to demand our action. If rheumatologists and rheumatology health professionals are not adequately paid, then patients’ access to our expert care will be jeopardized. This year we have made meaningful progress. In fact, in 2014, for the first time ever, a bill to permanently repeal and replace the SGR was passed in Congress. H.R. 4015 passed along party lines. However, because the mechanism to pay for the “fix” was felt to be partisan, it had no chance of being passed in the Senate.