JDRF LA Team Lobbies for Special Diabetes Program

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By Laura Mecoy

The JDRF LA team attending JDRF Government Day heads to Capitol Hill today inspired and enthused about advocating for more funding for diabetes research. We were inspired by presentations on Monday on all the exciting new research and developments that have the potential to significantly improve the lives and health of those we love who are living with T1D. Now we’re enthused about securing the funding to continue and expand that research.

LA Team attending JDRF Government Day. L to R: Wendy Garff, Laura Mecoy, Teri Smolarski, Angie Platt
LA Team attending JDRF Government Day.
L to R: Wendy Garff, Laura Mecoy, Teri Smolarski, Angie Platt

We have secured meetings with all the LA-area House members or their staff, as well as California’s two senators. We will be advocating for a three-year renewal of the Special Diabetes Program (SDP), which would mean $150 million a year in funding for diabetes research. Since 1997, this program has produced nearly $2.5 billion for diabetes research!

This program expires in September, so it’s essential we get it renewed by July to keep the continuity needed for research. SDP supports ambitious, large-scale, high-risk, high-reward projects that would not otherwise be performed and enables stable, long-term investments in research. For instance, it accelerates the development of the artificial pancreas; is developing treatments to prevent kidney and eye and to prevent T1D. It also helps translate research into potential therapies by supporting small businesses that might otherwise fail to get funding. In addition, SDP is helping to fund curative therapies, such as those that provide Islet function without the need for immunosuppression (preventing the body’s immune system from killing off the newly created or transplanted Islet cells). This has included encapsulation of the cells to prevent the immune system attacks; to reset the immune system so it doesn’t attack the Islet cells and modifying the Islet cells so they can “hide” from the immune system.

With health care reform at the top of the agenda, we will also be lobbying for the following protections for the T1D community:

  • Preserving protections for pre-existing conditions
  • Allowing young adults to stay on parents’ insurance until Age 26
  • Prohibiting yearly and lifetime dollar limits for essential health benefits
  • Closing the coverage gap for prescription medicines, known as the donut hole, in Medicare Part D by 2020

We will voice support for strong funding levels for the National Institutes of Health, which funds research, and the Food and Drug Administration, which conducts the regulatory reviews for new medications and new devices, like the artificial pancreas. And we will thank our members who supported JDRF’s successful campaign to get Medicare to cover the cost of continuous glucose monitors (CGM). The agency overseeing Medicare recently agreed to this coverage – an important victory for JDRF and those living with T1D.

The advocacy won’t end with our meetings today. JDRF will be working hard over the next year to make sure our community’s voice is heard on Capitol Hill. Please join us in these efforts with simple emails to your members by registering as an advocate at https://www.jdrf.org/get-involved/advocacy/join/