Consider this post a Call to Action, to help us urge Congress to hold a hearing focused on diabetes.
Believe it or not, it’s been more than 5 years since the last Congressional hearing on diabetes. But despite that lack of political action, our D-issues have not been in a holding pattern: there are more and more people being diagnosed or at risk, access to technology and treatment is getting more difficult, and simple knowledge about basics is not up to par.
With several significant pieces of legislation pending before Congress, the time is now for another Congressional hearing on diabetes!
This Wednesday (tomorrow, Oct. 7, 2015), our Diabetes Community is coming together to call on Congress to schedule such a hearing in November. We're all encouraged to blog, post on social media, and spread the word to get more people to contact their elected leaders using the hashtag #HearingDiabetesVoices on Twitter (see suggested messages and actions below).
All we ask is that elected policy-makers put some serious thought into legislation that has the potential to help us acheive better access to education, improve coordination of federal resources on diabetes, and equip us with the tools and technology to treat and even prevent the life-impacting outcomes of diabetes.
Diabetes Legislation Up for Consideration
Five key pieces of legislation are on the table:
- National Diabetes Clinical Care Commission Act (H.R. 1192) -- this is a bill shepherded by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE), which would create a commission to evaluate and leverage federal programs to improve clinical support for PWDs.
- Medicare Diabetes Prevention Act (H.R. 2102) -- grants people with prediabetes access to the National Diabetes Prevention Program (NDPP) resources.
- Preventing Diabetes in Medicare Act (H.R. 1686) -- grants people with prediabetes access to medical nutrition therapy.
- Access to Quality Diabetes Education Act (H.R. 1726) -- aims to increase the amount of diabetes educators able to serve those PWDs on Medicare. We covered this recently, looking at what this legislation does and doesn't do. Currently, it has the support of roughly 123 House members, we're told.
- Medicare CGM Access Act (H.R. 1427) -- targets access to continuous glucose montoring (CGM) systems for PWDs on Medicare, which we've covered extensively here at the 'Mine. This legislation is one of two CGM bills before Congress, and it's backed by CGM-makers Medtronic and Dexcom as well as the JDRF.
This is just what's in front of the U.S. House of Representatives at the moment, only half of Congress. Ideally, we'd also like support from the Senate side, as they have companion bills proposing the same laws for consideration. One step at a time, though.
Right now, this is about getting the attention of the House decision-makers -- especially those on the key House Energy & Commerce Committee. That's critical, because the 54-person E&C committee is the most expansive legislative working group in the House and handles policy on food and drug safety, commerce, healthcare costs, telecommuniations and energy.
In other words, if you want diabetes policy to be seriously considered, the E&C is where that happens.
Of the five bills mentioned above, there is some opposition and differing opinion. For example, we wrote recently about the Diabetes Miseducation campaign that opposes the D-educator bill before Congress, on the grounds that it's too exclusive and may harm rather than help the issue. While we may not agree with their stance, it’s important that the opposition’s voice be heard.
If Congress holds a diabetes policy hearing, the pros and cons can be discussed to pave the way for action. That's why a hearing is so desperately needed.
Making Congress Care About Diabetes
On many fronts, the Diabetes Advocacy Alliance (DAA) is leading this Call to Action for a Congressional conversation about diabetes.
Formed in 2010, the Alliance is made up of 20 member organizations "representing patient, professional and trade associations, other nonprofit organizations, and corporations, all united in the desire to change the way diabetes is viewed and treated in America." It is co-chaired by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the Pediatric Endocrine Society, and Novo Nordisk. Note that familiar patient advoacy groups like the Diabetes Hands Foundation and other mainstream orgs like the YMCA are involved, and Novo Nordisk and Omada Health are the only two corporate voices.
This DAA-led effort is separate but somewhat overlapping with other Congressional calls to action about diabetes, particularly the one led by Medtronic/Dexcom/JDRF about better CGM access for PWDs on Medicare (#MedicareCoverCGM). That's a key policy change we want Congress to consider in a hearing, but it’s also being pursued individually in other House and Senate committees.
Why should Congress care?
Well, duh. We’re talking about millions of people living with or affected by this illness, which costs our country billions of dollars every year.
But in the wacky world of politics -- with government shutdowns, tensions over healthcare and budgets, and the impending presidential election in 2016 -- those abstractions may not be enough to bump this up Congress' priority list.
Instead, we should remind Congress members that those people affected are constituents, who will be going to the polls with this topic on their minds. So if they consider diabetes in a special hearing and pass this legislation, they’ll not only be pleasing voters but can also pat themselves on the back for helping many vulnerable people on Medicare while also managing diabetes costs, all in one fell swoop.
Doesn't that sound like good campaign fodder for this election-charged season?
We certainly think so.
How Can You Help?
With its seat at the DAA table and the fabulous D-Advocate Melissa Lee at its helm, the non-profit Diabetes Hands Foundation has been a leader on this Congressional advocacy. The org will be posting a primer on all of this Wednesday, to help make it easier to get involved.
As a starting point, you can use these sample tweets to send direct messaages to your elected leaders, encouraging them not only to support this idea for a D-hearing, but also to contact their colleagues in the House E&C Committee:
Doing its part as a corporate force behind DAA, Novo Nordisk also recently created an "ACT for Change Today" page, where you can access a template form letter to send to your particular lawmakers.
Last but not least, there's the work of the newest non-profit, the Diabetes Patient Advocacy Coalition (DPAC), led by our D-advocate friends Christel Marchand Aprigliano (a type 1 who blogs at The Perfect D) and Bennet Dunlap (a D-Dad and type 2 himself who blogs at Your Diabetes May Vary). The DPAC website offers a rundown on many bills and resolutions pending in Congress and how you can get involved.
What's even better, the DPAC site has set up a COMPLETELY AUTOMATED way for anyone to send an appropriate message to their Congress member on this. All you do is click here to enter your zip code, and the site will search up your local Congress members, and then present a pre-formatted message that you simply have to sign and submit. Seriously, it takes like a minute to raise your voice this way!
So let's do it. Let's make sure that Congress hears our collective voice clamoring for a diabetes hearing on these issues that impact so many of us.