During AGA’s annual Joint Committee weekend, 55 AGA members collectively attended 79 meetings with staff from the offices of their House representatives and senators, lobbying for the top concerns of gastroenterologists across the country, including:
- Continued coverage of patients through either the Affordable Care Act or another bill that has the patient’s best interests in mind. More specifically, one that provides coverage for those with pre-existing conditions and for children under their parents’ plan until 26 years of age, among many other important provisions.
- Changes in health care language that label a colonoscopy for cancer screening as “therapeutic,” which renders a large copay for patients.
- Increased funding for the NIH.
Participants shared experiences from their time on Capitol Hill in the AGA Community forum, and encouraged others to get involved. Here are some of their reasons why.
- Your voice matters: You are constituents – which translates to votes in the minds of representatives and senators – and providing face-to-face conversation with their staffers shows them that you care about your patients and their needs, explains Siddharth Singh, MD.
- Being consistent gets your foot in the door: Some staffers recognized and remembered previous Advocacy Day participants, like Peter Liang, MD, MPH. Personally connecting could lead to follow-up communication and advocacy efforts, says Sarah Streett, MD, AGAF.
- You’re indirectly (and sometimes directly) connecting with decision makers: Staff members from these offices work closely with the legislators who evaluate which policies to support or oppose. “So it’s important to come to Washington, build relationships, and make the case for our science, our specialty, and our patients,” says Kim Barrett, PhD, AGAF.
- Others could be advocating against you on the same issues: “I very strongly believe that it is important to keep letting our legislators know how we feel and what we believe in,” shares Deborah Proctor, MD, AGAF.
- It’s a rewarding experience: “Voice [your] concerns to your representatives who embrace the stories of how their decisions and policies affect your patients, practice, research, and institution,” explains Susan Ramdhaney, MD, AGAF.
- It’s a critical time to take action: With the current health care environment, gastroenterologists need to express the needs of their patients and profession, Dr. Streett explains.
View the full discussion and read updates from colleagues who visited with legislative staffers from California, New York, North Carolina, and Oregon in the forum,.