Conference Coverage

Legislative landscape affecting rheumatology has potential wins but many challenges


AT ACR 2017

National Institutes of Health budget

After the National Institutes of Health received a $2 billion increase in funding for fiscal year 2017, the Trump administration proposed last summer to cut the NIH budget by 22%. Since then, however, bills to increase the NIH budget by $1.1 billion from the House and by $2 billion from the Senate have made their way through committees. But a budget must be passed by Congress and then signed by the president to make a potential budget increase a reality. Otherwise, a continuing resolution would leave the current level of funding in place through fiscal year 2018, Dr. Worthing noted.

Patients’ Access to Treatments Act of 2017 (H.R. 2999)

This bill has been raised for a fourth time after not making it past committees in previous Congresses, but the prospects for it passing appear somewhat better this time around, Dr. Worthing said. It would prevent insurance companies from putting drugs in specialty tiers that require patients to pay increasingly higher rates of coinsurance for the drugs on different tiers.

“It has been gathering momentum. We hope to get it across the finish line. And if we don’t get this across, then we’ll join with the coalition that rheumatology has formed around this issue of access to specialty treatments some other way, because this is a burning issue for us and our patients,” he said.

Medicare Access to Rehabilitation Services Act of 2017 (H.R. 807 and S. 253)

This bill would repeal the annual cap that was placed on rehabilitation services for patients covered by Medicare in 1997. The bill has bipartisan, majority support and has been gaining momentum for the past 4 years, Dr. Worthing said. It was advanced from both Senate and House committees in Oct. 2017.

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