News from the AGA

AGA Pres. Sheila Crowe Spends the Day on Capitol Hill


AGA President Sheila Crowe, MD, FRCPC, FACP, FACG, AGAF, recently spent the day on Capitol Hill meeting with lawmakers to advocate for AGA legislative priorities including increasing funding for NIH and biomedical research, support for the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act, and support for the Restoring the Patient’s Voice Act. Dr. Crowe met with eight congressional offices and received helpful feedback on the upcoming agenda in Congress and how it impacts AGA’s priorities.

NIH funding

Dr. Sheila Crowe on Capitol Hill
Dr. Sheila Crowe on Capitol Hill
Dr. Crowe stressed the need for increased funding for NIH and biomedical research, making the case that funding NIH not only improves the quality of life for Americans, but also contributes to our nation’s economic competitiveness. Fortunately, the offices that we met with were very supportive of increasing NIH funding, including the offices of House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Chairs Tom Cole, R-OK, and Roy Blunt, R-MO, who have worked in a bicameral fashion to increase funding for NIH. Both offices were confident that leadership was close to a deal to increase the current budget caps, which would enable increased funding for NIH. Offices were hopeful to avoid another government shutdown, although cautioned that another continuing resolution may occur before a final deal is reached since the current continuing resolution expires on Feb. 8. Read more about the issue.

Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act

Fixing the current coinsurance problem for Medicare beneficiaries who undergo a screening colonoscopy that becomes therapeutic remains a top AGA priority. Most of the offices that Dr. Crowe met with were cosponsors of the legislation, the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act (HR 1017/S.479), that would waive coinsurance payment regardless of the screening outcome. Dr. Crowe shared her experience with patients and the financial burden this places on beneficiaries who need to be screened. Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-CA, and Rep. Scott Peters, D-CA, both members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and supporters of the bill, will continue to advocate that the bill receive a hearing this year to help move it through Congress. The bill continues to have wide bipartisan support. Read more about the issue and how you can explain it to your patients.

Step therapy

More and more patients are being subject to step therapy protocols, also known as “fail first” under which they are required to try and fail sometimes two or three therapies before receiving coverage of the initial therapy recommended by their physician. With the emergence of new biologics to treat diseases like inflammatory bowel disease, more and more digestive disease patients are being subject to these protocols, which can have adverse effects on their health. Restoring the Patient’s Voice Act (HR 2077) would provide patients and providers with a fair and equitable appeals process when step therapy has been imposed and provides common sense exceptions for the provider to appeal. Dr. Crowe spoke of the impact this policy is having on digestive disease patients and the burden it puts on physician practices that have to take time away from patients to navigate the convoluted insurance appeals process. We are hopeful that many of the offices that we met with will support HR 2077. Read more about the issue.

Food is Medicine Working Group

Dr. Crowe also had a productive meeting with Rep. Jim McGovern’s, D-MA, office and learned more about the recently created Food is Medicine Working Group that he has initiated. McGovern is the Ranking Member of the Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Nutrition which is responsible for our nation’s nutrition guidelines and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The Working Group will focus on costs related to hunger and the importance of nutrition in treating chronic illness and disease. AGA looks forward to working with McGovern and members of the Working Group on this bipartisan initiative.

Capitol Hill needs to hear the voice of GI

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