AST Government Relations: An Obligation to Our Patients

Over the past two years, I have been both surprised and impressed by the strong interest our membership has in advocacy and public policy issues. To highlight AST’s advocacy efforts, I have invited the leaders of the Public Policy Committee (Roz Mannon, David Cohen, and Bill Applegate) to provide an update on how they work and on current projects. I hope this will be of interest to you and I encourage you to consider becoming involved.

AST Government Relations: An Obligation to Our Patients

Roslyn B. Mannon, MD, University of Alabama, Birmingham – Chair of the AST Public Policy Committee
David J. Cohen, MD, Columbia University – Co-chair of the AST Public Policy Committee
William H. Applegate, Bryan Cave LLP – Director of Government Relations

A critical mission of AST is advocacy. Government decisions increasingly affect all aspects of the transplantation field – and our ability to improve the lives of those with organ failure. Recognizing this reality, AST has significantly strengthened its voice and presence on Capitol Hill, within key federal agencies, and in targeted state capitols over the past decade. This presence allows us to have a seat at the table and communicate accurate, balanced information to policymakers to promote informed decision-making.

On a daily basis, our AST Public Policy Committee and government relations team in DC advocate on behalf of the patients served by the transplant community and members of AST. We proactively:
• Research and analyze legislative and regulatory proposals;
• Partner with specific congressional offices and federal agencies to develop and advance policy;
• Monitor and report on behind-the-scenes developments that may impact organ transplantation;
• Attend, testify, or monitor congressional and regulatory hearings;
• Work with transplant stakeholders and coalitions interested in patient and professional issues; and
• Educate government officials regarding both intended and unintended consequences of legislative and regulatory proposals.

All of these efforts are aimed at influencing policy to better serve the needs of our patients. Beyond our AST lobbying professionals in DC, many AST members around the country volunteer as lobbyists. Ultimately all politics are local, so AST supplements its direct Capitol Hill lobbying with targeted grassroots campaigns in key congressional states and districts. Our success comes from you and our many volunteers that, when called upon, have reached out to local politicians and elected leaders.

We have many challenges ahead in our field. These include:
• Passage of the Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act
• Medicare Part D Drug Protected Classes Draft Legislation
• Hospital Readmissions Penalty Carve Out Legislation
• Living Donor Protection Act
• FY 2015 HHS-NIH Appropriations
• HIV Organ Procurement Equity (HOPE) Act Implementation

AST volunteer members and leaders have done a remarkable job of communicating national transplant issues and priorities in their local states and districts. When we work together for the common cause of advancing the transplantation field and improving patient care, we speak with a louder voice on behalf of our patients.

AST needs your eyes, ears, and boots on the ground locally. How can you become involved?
• Reach out to your elected leaders when we conduct grassroots campaigns.
• Let us know if you have a contact with policymakers who can help advance transplantation.
• Proactively make us aware of any regulatory or legislative actions that you feel may impact the field of transplantation.

Successful lobbying and advocacy isn’t easy. It takes strategy, patience, vigilance, seasoned professionals… and YOU.

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