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Rheumatology Leaders Urge Federal Lawmakers to Improve Patient Access to Care

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Physician and health professional leaders with the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) convened on Capitol Hill this week to urge lawmakers to act on a range of policy issues affecting patient access to care.

Rheumatology advocates asked lawmakers to support legislation that would reform step therapy and prior authorization practices, strengthen the rheumatology workforce, and preserve patient access to osteoporosis testing. They also educated offices on the need for arthritis research funding through the Department of Defense and the importance of addressing the physician workforce shortage.

“As the demand for rheumatology care continues to grow, rheumatology leaders are committed to advancing policies that will improve care access and quality for the one in four Americans living with a rheumatic disease,” said Paula Marchetta, MD, MBA, president of the ACR. “We had productive conversations with lawmakers about bipartisan, common-sense policy solutions that will ensure patients continue to receive timely and appropriate care for their disease.”

The American College of Rheumatology asked legislators to support the following legislation to improve patient access to care:

  • Safe Step Act of 2019 (H.R. 2279) – 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, this bipartisan legislation would place reasonable limits on the use of step therapy in employer-sponsored health plans and create a clear process for patients and doctors to seek exceptions. The legislation builds on reforms passed in 22 states to address this pervasive practice that delays effective care and puts patients at unnecessary risk. While state efforts to limit insurer use of step therapy are an important step forward, Congressional action is needed to address the use of step therapy in employer-provided plans which are regulated by federal law.
  • Increasing Access to Osteoporosis Testing for Medicare Beneficiaries Act (S. 283) – Introduced by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), this legislation would restore a sustainable Medicare payment for DXA bone density scans performed in a physician’s office, which are essential to diagnose osteoporosis and prevent fractures in the Medicare patient population.
  • Prior Authorization reform legislation – Bipartisan legislation is expected to be introduced by Representatives Mike Kelly (R-PA), Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Roger Marshall (R-KS) and Ami Bera (D-CA) that would improve the transparency and efficiency of prior authorization processes, ensuring patients can access care without health-jeopardizing delays.

The American College of Rheumatology also looks forward to working with legislators on the following issues and related policies:

  • Dedicated arthritis research funds through the Department of Defense’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program – Using the existing budget at the Department of Defense to establish dedicated funding for arthritis research would better serve the needs of current and former service members living with arthritis and other rheumatic diseases during and after service. Arthritis is the leading cause of disability and a leading cause of medical discharge among service members.
  • Addressing the pediatric medical workforce shortage through the Strengthening our Pediatric Workforce Act (H.R. 1656) and the Reauthorization of the Pediatric Specialty Loan Repayment Program. Introduced by Representative Lloyd Smucker (R-PA), H.R. 1656 would amend the Public Health Service Act to provide support for initiatives that address pediatric public health disparities in children’s hospitals’ graduate medical education programs. Legislation is needed to reauthorize the now expired Pediatric Specialty Loan Repayment Program, which provided loan repayment for pediatric subspecialists.

See additional information about the ACR’s legislative priorities.

Jocelyn Givens


The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) is the nation's leading advocacy organization for the rheumatology care community, representing more than 7,700 U.S. rheumatologists and rheumatology health professionals who are committed to improving healthcare for Americans living with rheumatic diseases. As an ethically driven, professional membership organization committed to improving healthcare for Americans living with rheumatic diseases, the ACR advocates for high-quality, high-value policies and reforms that will ensure safe, effective, affordable and accessible rheumatology care.

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