JDRF Advocacy in Action: Government Day 2017

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From February 26 to March 1, 225 grassroots advocates from across the United States traveled to Washington, D.C., for JDRF 2017 Government Day. These volunteers arrived with a mission: to speak with One Voice to their Members of Congress on how the Federal Government can advance the JDRF Advocacy Agenda and help ease the burden of life with type 1 diabetes (T1D).

JDRF has bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. That’s why in one of the busiest legislative periods of the year, JDRF Advocates were able meet with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY-R), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY-D), Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (WI-R) and hundreds of other Members of Congress and their staffers in person. Here are the topics that JDRF Advocates covered.

The importance of renewing the Special Diabetes Program

Established in 1997, the Special Diabetes Program (SDP) contributes $150 million annually to T1D research through the National Institutes of Health—research that would slow or stop entirely without this support. The current round of SDP funding expires in September 2017, and JDRF Advocates stressed to Congress how important a renewal is for the advancement of T1D research.

“So much progress has been made through the SDP, and research must advance without interruption,” says JDRF Chief Mission Officer, Aaron Kowalski. “JDRF is doing our part to fund research, however, JDRF and other private funders cannot fill the gap if the SDP isn’t renewed.”

To continue this progress, JDRF is advocating for a three-year renewal of the Special Diabetes Program at $150 million annually.

Our appreciation of the Members of Congress who cosponsored the Medicare CGM Access Act of 2015

After years of extensive advocacy by JDRF volunteers and staff, clinician engagement and strong bipartisan support from Congress, in January, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) determined that continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) approved for therapy adjustments are finally eligible for Medicare coverage.

This decision is the result of bipartisan support by a majority of the House of Representatives and the Senate and will forever benefit the lives of people with T1D.

JDRF’s position on healthcare reform principles

People with T1D deserve access to affordable health insurance that covers their T1D management needs. JDRF Advocates spoke on behalf of all people with T1D who would be impacted by healthcare reform, and asked that four principles be considered in any reform:

  • Preserving protections for those with pre-existing conditions so they have access to complex health insurance at rates similar to people without such conditions
  • Allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance until the age of 26
  • Prohibiting insurance companies from setting annual and lifetime dollar limits for essential health benefits
  • Closing the coverage gap in most Medicare prescription drug plans by 2020

We can’t do it alone— the importance of Federal funding

JDRF is the largest nongovernmental funder of T1D research, but we can’t do it alone. Funding from the Federal Government is critical in achieving our mission. For years, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) have played a pivotal role in delivering advancements that improve the lives of people with T1D. It is crucial that these agencies continue to be funded at a high level. “Separate paths with a common goal,” says JDRF International Board of Directors Vice Chair Ellen Leake. “If we lock our heads and our hearts, we will find a cure.”

JDRF Advocates stressed the importance of this partnership and how critical this funding is to our continued success in years to come.

What comes next?

JDRF 2017 Government Day is over, but our work continues. JDRF’s track record of grassroots activism is strong—and proof that when we speak with One Voice, the impact is enormous. Register to be an advocate and join us as we advance toward a world without T1D.

JDRF 2017 Government Day was made possible through the support of Lilly Diabetes and Sanofi.