Committee spotlight

The Committee Spotlight was created to share the important work of our many volunteers whose time, effort, talent, and experience help the ACR/ARHP committees continue to have great impact and effect change in the field of rheumatology. Throughout the year, committees and their current priorities will be highlighted.

Learn more about all of the committees and see how you can get involved.

Government Affairs Committee Update

May 2017
Angus Worthing, MD, FACR, FACP, Chair

Your ACR Government Affairs team continues to work hard to advocate for our profession and our patients despite continued controversy and political tumult in Washington, D.C.

Recent accomplishments in Government Affairs include securing a $2 billion increase in NIH research funding despite the White House’s plan for cuts amid our current $17 trillion debt. Also, the ACR took advantage of an opportunity to strengthen our advocacy efforts with the administrative agencies - CMS, FDA, and the White House - by hiring a regulatory staff member based in Washington, D.C. This will extend the reach of the ACR in order to advocate for regulatory relief during the Medicare payment reform rollout of MACRA; efficient approval and appropriate implementation of biosimilars; and streamlined visa processing for international doctors to practice in underserved areas.

On May 10 – 11, the ACR Board of Directors and key advocacy committees completed a successful fly-in to Washington, D.C. This occurred one week after the House passed H.R. 1628 to repeal and replace parts of the Affordable Care Act. We hand-delivered a letter from ACR President Sharad Lakhanpal, MBBS, MD, underscoring the ACR’s principles for health reform: to protect continuous and affordable coverage of essential health benefits for our patients with pre-existing conditions (like arthritis!), and to provide tort reform and the repeal of potential cuts from the Independent Payment Advisory Board. We advocated to close the rheumatology workforce gap by boosting the number of physician training slots, and allowing visas and funding loan forgiveness for doctors to work in shortage areas. We also asked for support for a stand-alone arthritis research program at the Department of Defense.  Finally, the ACR Executive Committee met with CMS leadership to share our views about protecting rheumatology care and improving access to treatments.

You and your patients can help bolster our messages today by easily sending a pre-written email to Congress at the ACR’s Legislative Action Center.

Stay tuned throughout this year as your Government Affairs team works on your behalf in order to:

  • Ensure that the Senate knows the value of rheumatology care as it addresses healthcare reform;
  • Lower the absurdly high costs of biologics through (1) efficient approval of safe and effective biosimilars and (2) enhanced transparency of the secretive drug pricing system manipulated by monopolistic pharmacy benefits managers;
  • Help the ACR create an alternative payment model for rheumatoid arthritis that rheumatologists can use to avoid MIPS payment cuts;
  • Reduce administrative hassles in MACRA by enhancing the way quality and cost are calculated, and by streamlining the usefulness of the RISE Registry; and
  • By year’s end, eliminate the outdated cap on physical therapy services for Medicare beneficiaries.

Finally, I ask a favor: join or renew your AMA membership through the ACR so that we can continue to introduce our initiatives as resolutions in the AMA’s House of Delegates and be heard more forcefully on Capitol Hill. We’re a small specialty, and without the AMA’s backing, our principles could be drowned out by other voices and current events. Act now!