On March 23, RNS members representing twelve states spent the day on Capitol Hill to talk about issues affecting rheumatology patients. Specifically, our members discussed three pieces of legislation, all of which would improve patients’ ability to access their medications. The Improving Seniors’ Timely Access to Care Act would streamline the process for prior authorization in Medicare Advantage, the Safe Step Act would institute patient protections for step therapy protocols in employer-sponsored plans, and the HELP Copays Act would ensure that patients can fully benefit from the value of copay assistance to bring down their out-of-pocket costs.
The day before our Hill visits, the group heard remarks from Representative Buddy Carter (R-GA), who has extensive experience with the burden of utilization management due to his background as a pharmacist. We also heard from Representatives Lauren Underwood (D-IL) and the newly elected Jen Kiggans (R-VA) – both nurses – on their legislative priorities. In the discussion with the Members of Congress after their remarks, they stressed the importance of medical providers weighing in with elected officials at all levels, to provide real-world perspective on policy issues and proposals.
On the Hill the following day, RNS covered a lot of ground: our seventeen participants split into groups to meet with 42 congressional offices (21 in the House; 21 in the Senate), including health staff and Members of Congress. In every office, our message was positively received and many offices expressed interest in supporting one or more of the pieces of legislation we discussed. RNS staff will build on this momentum in the coming weeks to follow up with these congressional offices and lock in their support.
For the future, our goal is to not only repeat this event, but to grow it in attendance. The day left participants energized; it also underscored the need for nurses and other advanced practice providers to engage policymakers as they work to identify and solve the challenges facing our patients.