2017 has been a busy year in Washington.
“We had the Obamacare debates in stops and starts that seemed to go away, Medicare payment reform, high drug prices, transparency in drug pricing, biosimilars, the projected rheumatology workforce shortage, and much more,” said ACR Government Affairs Committee Chair Angus Worthing, MD, Clinical Assistant Professor of Rheumatology at Georgetown University Medical Center and a practicing rheumatologist at Arthritis & Rheumatology Associates in Washington. “These are all discrete issues that are of intense interest to rheumatologists, and they all illustrate ways in which the ACR contributes to policy development in the United States.”
Dr. Worthing will deliver the ACR’s annual Legislative & Regulatory Update 2017 from 1:00 – 2:00 pm Sunday in Room 5 B. He will also describe the many ways rheumatology professionals can play a role in policy debates at both the federal and state levels. In addition, a to-be-determined lawmaker will be part of the session.
“I can’t stress enough how important it is for our members to communicate their concerns to their elected officials,” he said. “We will be discussing different ways to make your positions known. It is surprisingly easy to participate in the legislative process, from quickly sending an email through the ACR’s Legislative Action Center to larger commitments such as attending a Capitol Hill fly-in, and plenty of opportunities in-between with lawmakers and their staff. It is vitally important that rheumatologists know how to exercise their First Amendment right to petition their government for redress of grievances.”
Attendees on Sunday afternoon will find out about:
- What are the chances that Congress will pass legislation to change Obamacare?
- How will the Food and Drug Administration approve interchangeable biosimilars?
- What can be done to prevent, or at least limit, the rheumatology workforce shortage that is looming?
“These are the kinds of questions members have been asking, and we will have some answers during this symposium,” Dr. Worthing said. “Expect to hear a perspective from the ACR’s viewpoint, and we will also have a perspective from a leading member of Congress regarding the issues affecting the U.S. healthcare system this year.”
Why should lawmakers and regulators listen to opinions from a relatively small group of medical specialists? Rheumatologists have more leverage in Washington than most realize.
“We happen to take care of diseases that end up costing a lot of money because of the high cost of the drugs involved and because of the growing tide of disability in the United States due to arthritis and other rheumatic diseases. That impact gives us an important voice in Washington despite our small numbers.”
Rheumatology brings an equally important voice to the regulatory arena. The ACR consistently puts the rheumatology community in the center of the rule-making process when the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) asks for input on potential new regulations, Dr. Worthing said. CMS may have a reputation for turning a blind eye to provider input, but rheumatology concerns play a visible role in rulemaking.
“We have been successful this year in optimizing regulations so our members can use RISE, the ACR’s Rheumatology Informatics System for Effectiveness Registry, to maximum benefit,” he said. “We and other specialties have worked together to include exceptions for physicians who are unable to participate in the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act [MACRA] because of small size or small numbers of patients. This symposium will provide the opportunity to learn what the ACR has been doing in Washington and interact with a lawmaker who can directly affect our practices and our patient relationships.”