Last week we told you about the Advocacy Council’s (AC) Strike Force visits to Congress and key committees. The following day (May 4) the Allergy & Asthma Network (AAN) hosted their 20th annual Allergy & Asthma Day on Capitol Hill (AADCH). Several members of the AC Strike Force and other members joined them to participate with families, patient advocates and other health care professionals.
“We host AADCH every year in the Spring to reinforce our message – to end the needless death and suffering due to asthma, allergies and related conditions,” said Tonya Winders, AAN CEO. It takes all of us working together, at the federal and local level, to ensure no more lives are needlessly lost.”
Asthma and allergy patient stories have long been a part of AADCH – and are often critical in influencing legislators on health care policy. This year’s advocacy issues included:
Ensuring access to care
As in our visits on May 3, we emphasized the importance of ensuring our nation’s most vulnerable have adequate health care coverage.
Asthma management in schools
On May 2 Representative Phil Roe, MD (R-TN) and House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) introduced the School-Based Respiratory Health Management Act (HR 2285). This legislation encourages states to help ensure students with asthma have assistance managing their disease at school.
The legislation would give states priority in an asthma grants program if they stock albuterol, establish standardized asthma action plans and train personnel to administer medication for a safe and healthy learning environment. Contact your legislators asking they support H.R. 2285
Expansion of telehealth services
Telehealth services have garnered the attention of legislators. They see it as a way to provide care to patients in rural areas. The College has a task force exploring opportunities to help members participate in this growing field.
The Advocacy Council has provided written statements to various payors demonstrating that “step therapy” (prescribing a less expensive drug first) can result in negative consequences for the patient and delays the most appropriate treatment.
The Advocacy Council and College have joined a coalition of specialties to work with state legislatures to pass laws limiting insurers ability to require step therapy. Insurers will be required to base their policies on clinical guidelines and establish a process for automatic exceptions in certain circumstances.
Federal programs at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) support asthma and allergy education and fund research. The College and AAN support continued funding at $29 million for NIH research programs for allergy, asthma and related conditions, CDC’s National Asthma Control Program and EPA’s initiatives that address indoor and outdoor environmental factors that trigger asthma.
USP pharmaceutical compounding revised guidelines
The special exception rules for allergen immunotherapy extracts have been in place for decades and are consistent with prior Congressional action. The College and AAN support maintaining the current USP rules for allergen extracts.
Lunch briefing attendees heard from Allen Meadows, MD, FACAAI, chair of the Advocacy Council, who provided an overview of the state of asthma and allergies in the United States. They also heard from James P. Kiley, PhD, of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), who provided an update on revised asthma guidelines and discussed new, innovative treatments on the horizon.
“Just for asthma, the direct and indirect costs come to $56 billion – that’s a big number even here on Capitol Hill,” said Dr. Meadows. “And we still have 3,600 people needlessly dying from asthma every year.
During this critical time of upheaval in our health care system, we feel both days of our advocacy efforts were effective. We welcome your comments and as always appreciate the support of you, the practicing allergist. Support the fight – donate to the Defend Affordable SHots (DASH) campaign.