At the end of March, as Washington was in the midst of a budgetary showdown and preparing for a possible shutdown of the federal government, members of the ASH Committee on Government Affairs made visits to Capitol Hill to explain to Members of Congress and their staff the impact of proposed cuts in funding to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on research to find cures and treatments for patients with serious hematologic diseases. Ultimately, as a result of the advocacy efforts of ASH and others in the research community, NIH fared better than many other federal agencies in the budget agreement Congress reached in mid-April; they escaped with a 1 percent cut in funding for fiscal year 2011.
In early May, just as congressional committees were beginning to examine the problems associated with the scheduled annual Medicare payment cuts to physicians that the sustainable growth rate imposes, and as shortages of chemotherapy and other critical drugs were making national headlines, members of the ASH Committee on Practice met with congressional offices to explain the negative effect these problems have on hematologists and their patients. In particular, ASH members highlighted the critical shortages of drugs used to treat patients with hematologic malignancies. ASH urged Members of Congress to conduct a hearing on the problem of drug shortages and support legislation that has been introduced in the Senate (S. 296, The Preserving Access to Life-Saving Medications Act) that would take the first steps toward addressing this problem.
Committee members visited nearly 100 congressional offices during the Committee Hill Days this spring. These meetings are crucial to ASH’s advocacy efforts, providing an opportunity for Members of Congress and their staff to gain insight on issues of importance to hematologists. ASH strongly encourages members to let the Government Relations & Practice Department know when you are in Washington, DC, and available to meet with your congressional delegation. You can also have your voice heard in the halls of Congress and play an important role in the Society’s advocacy efforts by visiting the ASH Advocacy Center and participating in the ASH Grassroots Network. For more information, visit www.hematology.org/takeaction.