The Pulse | Friday, April 12, 2019
Making a Difference on Capitol Hill
Digestive diseases affect millions of Americans each year, and SGNA nurses and associates play a vital role in their care.
Each year, the Digestive Disease National Coalition (DDNC) holds its Public Policy Forum, which allows individuals and organizations to speak on behalf of legislation affecting those with digestive diseases. It gives a chance for patient advocates, health care providers and industry representatives to comment on public policy, as well as listen to experts in the field give their take on hot button issues.
SGNA member Kim Foley, BSN RN CGRN, was honored with a Lifetime Service Achievement Award at this year's DDNC. Foley, who has represented SGNA at the DDNC for several years, was honored for all her hard work with the society in the policy field.
SGNA sent a delegation to the 2019 Public Policy Forum, held in March. This year’s theme was “Patient Access in the Cost Shifting Area.”
The SGNA delegation focused on four bills in particular:
- H.R. 1017/S. 479: Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act of 2017—This would eliminate cost-sharing for initial and follow-up colorectal cancer screening tests for Medicare beneficiaries.
- H.R. 2077: Restoring Patient’s Voice Act—This would establish guidelines for appealing step therapy protocols under ERISA health plans.
- H.R. 2999: Patients’’ Access to Treatments Act—This would establish cost-sharing limits for health plans that cover prescription drugs under a formulary or tiered cost sharing structure.
- H.R. 2587/S. 1194: Medical Nutrition Equity Act of 2017—This would provide coverage under federal and private health plans for foods and vitamins that are medically necessary for the management of certain digestive and metabolic disorders and conditions.
One of those in attendance was Lisa Brown, ACNA AGTS CFER. Brown said it was her second year in attendance at the event. She enjoyed going so much in 2018 that she invited two of her University of Virginia coworkers--Bridget Yancey, CNA, and Kendra Charles, RMA--to join her.
“It was very good; it was very productive,” she said. “I think most of the people that we talked to were willing to listen to us, and we got our point across about a lot.”
During the Public Policy Forum, groups are encouraged to meet with different senators, representatives and their aides. They are given the chance to speak at the forum as well, addressing specific bills or issues in general. Brown and her SGNA cohort offered their expertise on how these bills affect their patients.
Brown said it’s extremely important for groups like SGNA to take part in these discussions because they are the ones who know how payment issues surrounding procedures can affect a patient’s willingness to get well.
“We in the nursing profession—we’re the advocates for patients,” she said. “Some people don’t realize how much they would have to pay out of pocket, so we need to stand up and be the voice for them. We’re the experts, and knowing about insurance, we need to stand up and say, ‘People need to be cared for properly.’”
Brown pointed specifically to H.R. 1017. She said many people go in for a regular colonoscopy under Medicare, but once they realize they have to pay out of pocket for follow-up appointments—which could ultimately help prevent or treat disease—they won’t go.
“Colon cancer is a preventable disease,” Brown said. “We need to push our representatives to pass laws for us. They need to invest in our health, as well.”
For Brown, talking to legislators makes her feel inspired. After this year’s forum, she and her University of Virginia colleagues felt an immense sense of pride for offering their expertise and point of view.
“You could see us taking pride,” she said. “Being in that big building, we can speak our voice and there’s somebody out there listening. We could be the push over the edge to help get something passed.”
She said anyone in the GI field who is passionate about legislative change should reach out their lawmakers and advocate for change.
“Call your senator,” she said. “Write letters and speak your mind, tell them your opinion and why this bill should be passed.”
SGNA is a community of nurses, technicians, medical assistants, industry representatives and other GI professionals. Members join to stay up-to-date on industry trends and evidence-based practice, receive free and discounted education, network with others passionate about gastroenterology and to feel pride in their profession. Join SGNA today!