By Kristin Marie Ferguson, DNP, RN, OCN
On May 12, 2021, ACCC hosted a virtual Hill Day, in which 43 ACCC members from 24 states held more than 70 meetings with U.S. House and Senate offices. These members included physicians, financial advocates, social workers, nurses, pharmacists, and administrators. Due to the ongoing pandemic, our annual Hill Day—typically an in-person event—was held virtually, giving more of our members the opportunity to engage with policymakers at the federal level.
One ACCC member, Alan Miller, MD, chief medical director of oncology and associate chief medical director of clinical research at SCL Health in Colorado, noted that the virtual format had some advantages. “The virtual environment for Hill meetings was more efficient than live, because you did not need to schedule time between meetings to walk from office to office, especially when the DC weather is not optimal,” said Dr. Miller, who also serves as president of the Rocky Mountain Oncology Society. “I enjoyed the virtual format, but I look forward to when these meetings can be in person again. The virtual meetings cannot replicate the benefits of personal contact and the ability to read reactions of the members and staff."
During two webinars held before the event, ACCC members had the opportunity to learn about how to interact with policymakers, ACCC’s policy and advocacy platforms, and the key legislation to be addressed. ACCC provided one-pagers on each topic to meeting participants that contain key information about the bills to be discussed, a sample script, talking points, and follow-up thank-you notes to reinforce messaging after the meetings. Participants also received a social media toolkit to help with advocacy via Twitter and LinkedIn.
“I participated in ACCC’s virtual Hill Day in the state of Georgia, and it was a great experience,” said Mia Nutter, BS, MBA, a financial navigator from Emory University Hospital Midtown Winship Cancer in Atlanta. “My team consisted of oncology nurses, a dietician, an administrator, and a genetic counselor. My background as a financial navigator really helped me bring patient stories up when speaking about specific bills. We met with Georgia Reps. Rick Allen, Buddy Carter, and Andrew Clyde, and we met with Sen. Raphael Warnock’s legislative correspondent.”
The key bipartisan bills members addressed during this year’s Hill Day were the Telehealth Modernization Act (H.R. 1332/S.368), which focuses on extending some flexibilities for telehealth that were authorized during the public health emergency, and the Safe Step Act (H.R. 2163/S. 464), which would improve step therapy protocols and ensure patients are able to safely and efficiently access the treatments prescribed by their providers.
In a recent ACCCBuzz blog post, ACCC Secretary Olalekan “Lekan” Ajayi, PharmD, MBA, addressed the importance of lobbying for the expansion of telehealth: “We must resist the urge to return to the way we’ve delivered care before the pandemic began,” Dr. Ajayi wrote. “Instead, we must embrace innovation and work together to identify where and how telehealth can be safely delivered. Our patients support telehealth because it improves access to care. Our providers support telehealth because it is effective and efficient.”
Additional legislation addressed by Hill Day participants included the Access to Genetic Counselor Services Act (H.R. 2144/S.1450), The Research Investment to Spark the Economy (RISE) Act (H.R. 869/S.289), and the Medicare Multi-Cancer Early Detection Screening Coverage Act of 2021 (H.R. 1946).
“For me, this experience was excellent, and I felt prepared with the preparation ACCC offered,” said Jared Kast, RT(T), MHA, executive director of the Hall Perrine Cancer Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “I was able to talk with three congressional aides. Each of them had different levels of understanding of each bill. It was great to see where they were with support and help them understand the real-life impact of these issues on our day-to-day and share stories about how these issues impact our patients. It is extremely important for us to have more leaders engaged in Hill Day, as it helps us influence the patient experience and the viability of our businesses.”
Christian Downs, JD, ACCC’s executive director, added that ACCC was happy to be able to bring members virtually to congressional meetings. “We’ve hosted live meetings on Capitol Hill before,” said Downs, “but this virtual environment allowed some new members to participate.”
Visit our website to learn more information about our legislative priorities, and view photos of our 2021 Virtual Hill Day event by searching for #ACCCHillDay on Twitter or LinkedIn.
Stay engaged! Email Kristin Ferguson, DNP, RN, OCN, ACCC senior director of cancer care delivery and health policy, about any workforce, reimbursement, or cancer care delivery issues you'd like to address with lawmakers.
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