JDRF LA Team Finds Congressional Support for JDRF Legislative Priorities

By Laura Mecoy

The LA Team that attended JDRF Government Day in Washington, D.C. had the privilege of meeting with all the Greater Los Angeles area members of Congress or their staff during two intense days of lobbying on Capitol Hill.

On Feb. 28 and March 1, JDRF LA Advocacy Team Chair Teri Smolarski, JDRF International Board member Angie Platt, Wendy Garff and I spread out across the Capitol, logging many miles and 17 meetings.

For several of the visits, two volunteer advocates, Teri’s daughter, Michelle, and my son, Ryan Walker, joined us to give their firsthand accounts of living with T1D and how research had already improved their lives. Both of these young adults have been JDRF Walk Ambassadors and spokespeople for T1D. They are powerful advocates.

Young LA advocates and JDRF Advocate Chair, Teri Smolarski
Young LA advocates and JDRF Advocate Chair, Teri Smolarski

In our meetings with staff and members, we found widespread support for JDRF’s legislative priorities, but a great deal of uncertainty about what shape the federal budget and healthcare reform will take.

Members and staff voiced support for a three-year renewal for the Special Diabetes Program, a $150 million a year commitment to diabetes research.

They noted that JDRF is aligned with many other groups and organizations in its healthcare reform priorities: Keeping the provisions that allow children up to age 26 to be covered on their parents’ insurance, that require coverage for pre-existing conditions, that will continue to close the “donut hole” in Medicare prescription drug coverage and that prohibit annual and lifetime limits on coverage.

Most also agreed with our request for increased funding for the National Institutes of Health, which  funds diabetes research, and the Food and Drug Administration, which reviews the safety and efficacy of diabetes medications and medical devices. But none was certain what the budget and healthcare reform landscape will be. They urged us to stay in touch as the president unveils his budget, and Congress moves forward on determining spending and healthcare reform.

The JDRF Advocacy team in D.C. is awesome, and they follow all these issues on our behalf. They will be keeping us informed, and we will need to let our members of Congress know that these issues are priorities for us, their constituents. So when you get that email from JDRF Advocacy, please respond by sending a note or making a call. It’s easy to do, and it’s extremely effective in our ongoing fight to turn Type 1 into Type None.