Volume 7, No.1
2005: A Legislative Year In Review
In 2005, Arthritis Foundation volunteer advocates sent thousands of letters and emails to Congress, placed hundreds of phone calls and faxes, and made many visits to their Representatives’ and Senators’ offices in Washington, D.C. and back home. We want to sincerely thank each of you for helping to educate Congress that arthritis is more than a few minor aches and pains and requires serious action. Together we have made significant progress, and we wanted to provide a brief update on what we accomplished last year and where we are headed this year.
Our objectives were and remain winning congressional passage of the Arthritis Prevention, Control, and Cure Act (APCC), securing additional funds for arthritis research and public health programs, and ensuring the broadest range of arthritis therapies and strong consumer protections in the Medicare prescription drug benefit.
When Congress adjourned in late December, 182 Members of Congress were cosponsors of the APCC. This represents more than double the number of Representatives and Senators who cosponsored the bill in 2004. This demonstrates broad bipartisan support for our effort to increase federal support for arthritis research and public health and efforts to expand access to care for kids with arthritis.
On November 15, Medicare beneficiaries with arthritis were able to begin enrollment in the new Medicare Part D prescription drug program. During the year, the Arthritis Foundation urged the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to develop drug formulary guidelines to ensure the broadest possible coverage for arthritis therapies and consumer protections for beneficiaries enrolled in these plans. As the year drew to a close, over 1 million Americans had enrolled in the Part D program.
Our most recent communications to members of the Arthritis Advocacy Network focused on the federal budget process that concluded in late December. Congress passed H.R. 3010, which funds the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies. This bill provided the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with an increase of 0.5%, or $153 million, and significantly decreased funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a cut of 4% or $8 billion from the previous year’s funding level. In a separate bill, Congress also passed a 1% across-the-board funding cut in all discretionary programs except for veterans programs. This cut means a $280 million loss for the NIH—less funding than the previous year —and even more reduced funding for the CDC.
While we made important strides in building support for our arthritis agenda in Congress, much hard work remains in 2006. It is absolutely critical that we seize upon our momentum from last year to reach our goals this year before the November elections. Not only must we recruit new Representatives and Senators to cosponsor the Arthritis Prevention, Control, and Cure Act, but we also must develop deeper relationships among our current cosponsors so that they in turn can be stronger advocates on behalf of the bill in Congress. We must continue to educate Congress about the serious challenges facing persons with arthritis to ensure that we secure our fair share of federal funding for arthritis research and public health programs. We hope we can count on your involvement and support as we continue the fight in 2006!
Invite six of your friends and family to join the Advocacy Network!