Hello patient advocates! Every year, on behalf of those fighting rheumatic diseases, the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) brings hundreds of patients, rheumatologists, and rheumatology health professionals to the nation’s capital for our annual Advocates for Arthritis event. As chair of the American College of Rheumatology’s Government Affairs Committee, it gives me great pleasure to report that this year’s fly-in was a resounding success!

Participants began the conference with an in-depth, day-long issues education and training program. In addition to learning basics and best practices for advocacy, participants also reviewed the issues they would discuss with lawmakers during the week. Given the daily challenges that patients face, it is crucial not only to inform policymakers of the healthcare challenges associated with rheumatic diseases, but also urge them to take concrete steps to improve the quality and availability of care. United together, we spoke with legislators from both parties about a series of important policy proposals and changes currently being debated on Capitol Hill, among them the proposed cuts to Medicare evaluation and management services, a recent change allowing Medicare Advantage plans to utilize step therapy in the Part B program, and increasing access to the X-rays used to help diagnose, prevent and treat osteoporosis, to name a few.

Attendees also dedicated some time to express their gratitude towards supportive legislators on social media. Senators Tillis and Stabenow were two of the many Members of Congress who took time to meet participants and discuss expanding access to rheumatologic treatment:

In all, we spoke with more than 100 legislators to share our stories, express thanks, and propose ideas about improving the lives of millions of Americans who currently live with a rheumatic disease.

As you may know, advocating for care is one of the tenants of our successful Patient Pledge to Live Well with Rheumatic Disease. If you haven’t done so yet, please take the patient pledge today. You can also help us advocate for expanding treatment and reducing barriers to care through the Simple Tasks legislative action center. There, you can track important legislative initiatives currently being debated in Congress and share your story with legislators.

Are you worried about cuts to evaluation and management services for Medicare patients with rheumatic diseases? Urge your representative to oppose any action that would cut services and reduce access to care.

United, we can affect significant, long-lasting change for those suffering from rheumatic diseases.

Dr. Angus Worthing