Hello Patient Advocates,
September was a big month for America’s rheumatic disease community advocates. As part of our annual Advocates for Arthritis event, the American College of Rheumatology brought over 110 patients, rheumatologists, and rheumatology health professionals to Capitol Hill.
Wonderfully aligning with Rheumatic Disease Awareness Month, this year’s event was a tremendous success and, in my opinion, our best yet! After a day of training and information sessions, our advocates met with lawmakers to discuss their personal experiences and why access to rheumatology care is so important.
During the meetings, we urged support for legislation that would expand the rheumatology workforce and reform insurer practices that often delay patient access to medically necessary treatment. Lawmakers were also educated on the increasing prevalence of rheumatic diseases, specifically arthritis, and the enormous toll it takes on Americans of all ages and backgrounds.
Here is an overview of the bipartisan policy solutions we advocated for during our time on the Hill. Help support our efforts by reviewing the following bills and sending an email of support to your Members of Congress.
Safe Step Act
The Safe Step Act of 2019 (H.R. 2279 / S. 2546) was introduced by Representatives Raul Ruiz, MD (D-CA) and Brad Wenstrup, DPM (R-OH), two physicians who have encountered step therapy in their own practices. Shortly after our advocacy day efforts, a companion bill, S. 2546, was introduced in the Senate by Lisa Murkowski (R-AL), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), and Doug Jones (D-AL). Both bipartisan bills seek to limit the use of step therapy so patients can access treatment without delays.
Increase the Rheumatology Workforce
Introduced by Representatives Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Michael C. Burgess, MD (R-TX), the EMPOWER for Health Act (H.R. 2781) would support efforts to increase the number of pediatric subspecialists who practice in underserved areas, while also promoting greater diversity in the health care workforce. ACR also supports the REDI Act (H.R. 1554), introduced by Representative Brian Babin (R-TX). This legislation would amend the Higher Education Act to defer the accumulation of interest on student loans for borrowers while they serve in a medical internship or residency program, thereby making careers in medicine more accessible.
Overall, we were able to speak with more than 120 legislators and staff to share our stories, express our concerns, and propose solutions to improve the health and well-being of millions of Americans living with rheumatic disease.
Thank you again to our amazing patients who attended this year’s Advocates for Arthritis and thanks to all the patients who are helping us raise awareness of rheumatic disease!
Dr. Angus Worthing