AST Washington Round-Up (July 2017)

AST Washington Round-Up

The AST's government relations team has been operating at “Full Tilt” during this first six months of the new 115th Session of Congress. The Society’s leadership, Public Policy Committee, and the team of government relations professionals in Washington, DC have engaged in a full and robust agenda as the gavel fell and called to order a new two-year Congress and the arrival of the Trump Administration in Washington, DC. Top priority issues for the AST during the first half of 2017 have ranged from the successful introduction of the Living Donor Protection Act legislation to working closely with our champions in the U.S. Senate and House to protect annual appropriations funding and resources for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Additionally, the AST has provided input and made clear the organization’s position to Congress regarding the protection of patient care access and affordability in any health care reform package advancing through the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. The Society has also worked aggressively to cultivate further, strengthen, and mobilize its relationships within the new 115th Congress and Executive Branch.

Living Donor Protection Act of 2017 Re-Introduced in the First Session of the 115th Congress

Despite significant distractions and competing agendas, the AST and the transplant stakeholder community were able to successfully engage policy-makers and secure the re-introduction of the Living Donor Protection Act (LDPA) during the first three months of the new Congress. Additionally, one of the new Congressional Organ Transplant and Donation Caucus Co-Chairs, Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), agreed to serve as the lead Republican sponsor of the legislation. Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) again served as the lead Democratic sponsor for the LDPA. The addition, previous lead Republican, Congress Michael Burgess, M.D., (R-TX), was recently elevated to Chairman of the House Healthcare Subcommittee. Congresswoman Beutler comes with both passion and real-life experience, as her husband provided a life-saving donor organ to their daughter. To view the AST’s letter of support for the LDPA, click here.

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Federal Funding for FY 2017 & FY 2018

As you may be aware, we entered the new year and Congress under a “Continuing Resolution (CR)” with funding levels frozen at the previous year’s levels. This scenario essentially required the U.S. Congress to complete the federal funding process for FY 2017 followed immediately by the start of the FY 2018 funding process. Additionally, President Donald Trump issued a proposed FY 2018 federal budget blueprint requesting an NIH cut of $7.2 billion, or 21 percent, from the FY 2017 funding level.

Within days of the gavel falling and the calling to order the new 115th Congress, the AST joined many national organizations in the call to action supporting biomedical research and the operations of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). These efforts included a Capitol Hill Fly-In by AST leaders before the current session of Congress, direct lobbying of Congress by the Society’s government relations team in Washington, DC, joint advocacy initiatives with NIH and biomedical research stakeholders, including the AAMC and Ad Hoc Coalition for Biomedical Research. 

Obama Care Repeal & Replace Legislation

The AST has worked individually and within coalitions to ensure that the voice of transplant professionals and the critical concerns of its patient population are expressed to House and Senate leaders as they seek to repeal and replace Obama Care. Since the first days of the new Administration and Congress. The AST has educated Members of Congress and the new Executive Branch regarding its concerns for transplant patient coverage as it relates to access and affordability under the House and Senate repeal and replace legislative proposals.

All Politics Are Local – AST President Meets with National Health Care Congressional Leader in Local Hometown District

Over the summer, the AST government relations team in Washington, DC arranged for the Society’s President, Dr. Ron Gill, Ph.D., to meet with Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO). As a constituent of the Congresswoman’s, the AST wanted to connect the dots between the Society’s new President and his House Representative on Capitol Hill.

Congresswoman DeGette has been one the most vocal healthcare champions on Capitol Hill since her arrival in Washington, DC more than 20 years ago. Dr. Gill thanked Congresswoman DeGette for her strong and consistent leadership in advancing NIH funding and the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act.   

Proposed ESRD Payment Model ”PATIENT” Demonstration Act – AST Weighs In with Congressional Leaders

Similar to other stakeholder organizations, the AST has been in recent contact with and met directly with those Congressional offices and House Committee staff that led the efforts to introduce and mark-up the PATIENT Act in the previous 114th Session of Congress. The primary concern for AST has remained the fact that the previous PATIENT Act legislation did not provide adequate access or pathway for ESRD patients that could benefit from a kidney transplant. Instead, the Demonstration Act was based on a model that established financial disincentives for the referral of organ transplantation, as opposed to the continuation of dialysis. 

Congressman Cartwright (D-PA) Organ Donor Clarification Act

AST leadership has met directly with Congressman Cartwright and continues to maintain an open dialogue with the Congressman’s senior staff regarding the legislation. We have not seen a new draft bill for this Congress, but expect Cartwright to move forward with his policy proposal again in this 115th Session of Congress. As introduced in the previous Congress, the Cartwright legislation addresses various organ donation incentives seeking to increase the number of transplants.

AST National Transplant Patient Summit

The Society continues to reiterate its strong commitment to patient involvement in the work of the AST.  Our organization is developing and hosting a summit to be convened in Washington, DC this coming October. Several Congressional offices and Members of Congress will be participating in the Society’s Patient Summit.