By Laura Mecoy
As the microphone passed around the banquet hall, each of us briefly recounted why we had traveled to Washington, D.C. for JDRF Government Day. We described our children, nieces and nephews, siblings, and other relations and friends who were living with T1D. Several drew applause as they described decades of living with the disease, and a few drew tears as they recounted their losses to T1D and its complications.
Our stories – shared at the end of the first dinner of the four-day event – will be an important part of what we bring to Capitol Hill on Tuesday and Wednesday, when we will meet with our members of Congress. From LA, there are four of us: JDRF LA Government Relations Committee Chair Teri Smolarski, JDRF International Board Member Angie Platt, Wendy Garff and myself. We all have children with T1D, and we have all been engaged in meeting with local members either in D.C. or in LA.
Derek Rapp, JDRF president and CEO, told us advocacy has become even more important because of the advances we have seen in diabetes technologies and innovations. Advocacy will be needed to ensure health plans cover the new technologies. In fact, JDRF has set up a new advocacy page, entitled: “My diabetes, my insulin pump, my choice” to seek to get health plans to cover the pumps that our endocrinologists and we believe are best.
He said advocacy will also be needed to secure FDA and other agencies’ approval of these innovations. We saw that with the continuous glucose monitor (CGM). Two years ago, I was fortunate to be in D.C. with our daughter, Grace Walker, who was a Children’s Congress delegate, a similar lobbying program that brings children from across the country to the nation’s Capital. They asked their members of Congress to support Medicare coverage of CGMs. Their advocacy, others’ advocacy, JDRF’s research and JDRF’s outreach to the government agency that governs Medicare produced results: It approved Medicare coverage for CGMs about a month ago.
So we are proud to be here to tell our stories and make our appeals to Congress. But everyone can participate. If you haven’t already, register to be an advocate and share your connection to T1D. You can do it from the comfort of your home with a simple email to your elected representative. Please register at http://www.jdrf.org/get-involved/advocacy/join/