RheumWATCH Archives


Read the RheumWATCH archives on topics such as rheumatology advocacy, policy updates, insurance advocacy, and practice management.


Join Us on Capitol Hill Next Week: From Home

Join Us on the Hill Next Week from Home

A recent study showed just a handful of comments via social media can catch the attention of a legislator. Imagine what thousands of tweets, emails, letters to the editor and opinion editorials can achieve. The ACR Board of Directors, Government Affairs Committee, RheumPAC Committee and state society leaders will be on Capitol Hill on May 14, meeting with Congress members and staffers to promote legislation that benefits your practice and your patients.

Here are four easy ways you can join us on the Hill from your home or office to greatly enhance our efforts:

  • Follow the ACR on Twitter and use #SpecialtyTiers. As we continue to push for legislators to pass the Patients’ Access to Treatment Act (PATA), we will be sharing photos and updates from our Hill visits, statistics about the impact of rheumatic disease, infographics, and more via our Twitter and Facebook accounts. Retweet and/or share this information, or post your own thoughts on why legislators should support PATA while we are on the Hill. Include #SpecialtyTiers when you do, and if your representative has a Twitter account, don’t be shy about including them, too.
  • Tell your legislators how other important policies affect you and your patients. In addition to PATA, we will be asking legislators to support ICD-10 mitigation legislation, increase the NIH budget and create a dedicated $20 million arthritis research program. While you’re on Twitter, tag your representative using the “@” symbol followed by their Twitter handle (i.e., name), tell them why these programs matter to you and your patients, and ask for their support. You can find the social media accounts for your legislators listed on their profiles at www.senate.gov and www.house.gov.
  • Write a letter to the editor or opinion editorial, and send it to your local paper in honor of Arthritis Awareness Month. If you can’t tweet, post and share while we’re on the Hill, you still have the entire month of May to help. Use Arthritis Awareness Month as a reason to write to your local paper and explain the hardships that your patients with rheumatic conditions face on a daily basis, the difficulty many of them have accessing and affording the expensive drugs required to help them avoid disability, and how policies such as the Patients’ Access to Treatment Act will help ensure arthritis patients nationwide are able to receive the care they need at a reasonable cost. Send an email to pr@rheumatology.org if you would like a sample to get you started.
  • Visit the ACR Legislative Action Center for other ways to make your voice heard. Don’t forget about the great resources we have available in the Legislative Action Center to connect you with your legislators and help you share your opinions about the policies that affect you, your practice, and your patients. Visit it today .

A Personal Appeal from Your Colleagues

Dear ACR and ARHP Colleagues:

In 2007, the ACR created RheumPAC as the need for strong advocacy for rheumatologists and their patients and rheumatology training and research became compelling. The Government Affairs Committee was adept at developing novel ideas and strong policies, but there was a notable gap between policy and politics. RheumPAC was started to close that gap and become the conduit between ACR government policy and political action. Under the leadership of Dr. Gary Bryant, the inaugural committee was formed and the process of formally funded advocacy for rheumatology began.

Since the beginning, members of the RheumPAC Committee have worked regularly and tirelessly on fundraising, legislator vetting, key contact development, and personal Hill visits. Many doors have been opened, resulting in a strong and well-recognized ACR/ARHP on Capitol Hill. This has been done with less than 4% of the membership contributing to this cause. Why at this critical time wouldn’t all ACR/ARHP members see the value of contributing to this effort?

We the undersigned as former members of RheumPAC have seen, on one hand, the difficulties and hard work in developing an effective Political Action Committee, and on the other hand, the enormous legislator impact organizations such as ACR/ARHP can have with funding and a focused message. We want each of you, our esteemed colleagues in the ACR and ARHP, to know that we, with our self-styled appellation as the RheumPAC Alumni, are leading the way with our contributions for this year. By our act of initiating this fundraising early, we hope it is meaningful to you to see how much we’ve come to believe in this political action process.

We are asking that you sign in to RheumPAC and join us in making your contribution for 2015 now.

Thanks and best regards,
RheumPAC Alumni

Jim Engelbrecht, MD
Erin Arnold, MD
Gary Bryant, MD
Fred Dietz, MD
Joseph Flood, MD
Gene Huffstutter, MD
Emily Isaacs, MD
Karen Kolba, MD
Tim Laing, MD
Paul Romain, MD

Disclaimer: You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to contribute to RheumPAC. All contributions are voluntary and must be made using personal, non-corporate funds. RheumPAC contributions are not tax deductible. Federal law requires RheumPAC to collect and report the name, mailing address, occupation and employer of individuals whose contribution exceeds $200 in a calendar year. Contributions will be screened and those from persons outside the restricted class will be returned.

Update on Interstate Medical Licensure Compact

Update on Interstate Medical Licensure Compact - Optional, Not Linked to MOC

While most physicians in the U.S. are licensed in only one state (with only 16% licensed in two states and 6% in three or more), there is an increasing desire for medical licensure portability, especially with the increasing implementation of telemedicine. To help ease the burden of applying across multiple states with different sets of requirements and applications, the Federation of State Medical Boards devised the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact as a new option. Under the Compact, qualified physicians seeking to practice in multiple states would be eligible for expedited licensure in all states participating in the Compact.

Key Principles outlined by the Compact:

  • Participation is strictly voluntary for both physicians and state boards of medicine.
  • Participation creates another pathway for licensure, but does not otherwise change a state’s existing Medical Practice Act.
  • Regulatory authority remains with the participating state medical boards.
  • The practice of medicine occurs where the patient is located (at the time of the physician–patient encounter) and therefore requires the physician to be in compliance with the statutes, rules and regulations of the state where the patient is located.
  • A mechanism will be established whereby any physician practicing in a state will be known by and under jurisdiction of the state medical board where the practice occurs.
  • Participating state boards are required to share complaint and investigative information with each other.
  • The license to practice medicine may be revoked by any (or all) participating member state once issued.

Compact Eligibility Requirements:

  • Successfully passed USMLE or COMPLEX-USA (within three attempts);
  • Successful completion of a GME program;
  • Specialty certification or a time-unlimited certificate (MOC is not a requirement of the Compact);
  • No history of discipline on any state medical license;
  • No history of discipline related to controlled substances; and
  • Not under investigation by any agency.

Note: Physicians who are ineligible for the expedited licensure process facilitated by the Compact would still be able to seek additional licenses in those states where they desire to practice, using traditional licensure processes.

Implementation Status: State Participation

There are currently five states that have signed the Compact into law, but seven are needed for implementation. Twelve states have introduced the bill and eight are considering and supportive, so it is anticipated that the Compact can launch this summer.


Concerns (Q&A)

If a physician is licensed in two or more states, will he/she be required to participate in the Compact to obtain licensure renewals?
No, the Compact is voluntary for the physician and the states. It may be an option for those within participating states.

How will CME be handled by the Compact, including states with topic-specific CME requirements?
The Compact doesn’t involve CME, as licensure renewal is still handled by each state.

If physicians need to be specialty board certified to be eligible for the Compact, don’t they need to participate in MOC?
No, a physician only needs to be certified at the time of application to the Compact; it is not a requirement to be enrolled in MOC. Certification is an entry ticket. License renewal will be based on state law, and currently no states require participation in MOC.

If a physician needs to be certified for the Compact, will individual state licenses start changing to include certification as a requirement?
The Compact is another pathway for licensure, but does not otherwise change a state’s existing Medical Practice Act.

The ACR will continue to monitor developments with the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact. Contact Starla Tanner at stanner@rheumatology.org or 404-633-3777 with questions, and visit licenseportability.org for more information and updates on the Compact.

Message from the States

As a rheumatologist, it is gratifying to know my patients have access to biologic therapies that can alleviate their pain and suffering. For thousands of Californians with debilitating conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, biologics have provided welcome relief where other treatments have failed. Yet in our quest to make new therapies available, we cannot compromise patient safety.

Proposed legislation before the California Senate involving biologic therapies gives cause for concern. California Senate Bill 671 would allow pharmacists to switch a patient from a biologic to a biosimilar without notifying the prescribing physician prior to dispensing. Biosimilars are complex proteins produced in living cells that are extremely sensitive to minor changes in the manufacturing process. While structurally similar to biologics, biosimilars are not mere copies and cannot be interchanged indiscriminately. Even the slightest variation from the original biologic may produce a dangerous immune response or other potentially serious side effects.

As a physician, my number one priority is the well-being of my patients. When it comes to patients undergoing biologic treatments, this means careful, deliberate consideration before changing any therapeutic regimen and close monitoring for any side effects.

A patient who receives a biosimilar substitution could begin experiencing significant side effects in the first few days. The patient might not know the cause, nor might the physician, who has not been made aware of the change. With this in mind, I have respectfully asked that our state lawmakers require pharmacists to notify prescribing physicians as soon as possible after, or more preferably at the time, a biosimilar substitution has taken place.

Patients rely on their doctors to help ensure they will not have adverse reactions. Timely provider notification will help ensure the safety of Californians taking biosimilar therapies.

I hope you will reach out to your own state society or to the ACR to learn the status of these and other important issues that are being acted on in your own state legislature. You can make a difference for your patients by becoming involved in local efforts. Contact Starla Tanner, ACR state government affairs, at stanner@rheumatology.org or 404-633-3777 for more information.

Gary R. Feldman, MD
President, California Rheumatology Alliance
Member, American College of Rheumatology