By John Richardson, NSGC Director of Policy and Government Relations
As Amy Sturm wrote, she had an extremely productive day of meetings with members of Congress earlier this month. Amy delivered our message about the importance of the Access to Genetic Counselor Services Act thoughtfully and succinctly. I am amazed, but never surprised, by the passion and effectiveness that genetic counselors bring to advocacy.
The NSGC community has developed momentum around this important legislation that would improve access and reimbursement to genetic counselors for Medicare beneficiaries. For background, a sitting Congress lasts two years, and we now have a new Congress – the 116th – in 2019. While H.R. 7083 expired with the 115th Congress, the bill will be reintroduced soon with a new bill number.
In the coming weeks, we will be requesting that you contact your member of Congress asking that she or he become a co-sponsor of the new bill. The goal is to have as many members of Congress as possible co-sponsor, as this demonstrates real interest and support for the policy. We have heard from many members of Congress that they support this effort, but it will be up to you, their constituents, to have them sign their name to the legislation. Bills with strong support through co-sponsorship are the bills that have a high likelihood of being enacted.
We will make contacting your member of Congress easy. Last year, we did a broad action alert to contact Congress and we had a 50 percent response rate. While this is really positive in terms of grassroots advocacy, we need to increase the genetic counselor community’s response rate.
For our next steps, once we have a definitive date for reintroduction, we will engage you on several levels. First, all NSGC members will be asked to respond to a broad action alert – this will be very simple as we will utilize the same GovPredict platform as before. Second, our Key Contact Network (KCN) will be asked to send an additional note directly to the healthcare staffer for their member of Congress. We will provide a draft message along with the contact info for the staffer you will contact. Ideally, we will have two or three individuals per congressional district volunteer for the KCN. Several members have already volunteered and we thank you for doing so as the KCN will be critical to our success. If you would like to volunteer, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, there will be a social media aspect to our effort. Please watch for opportunities to promote our bill nationally and locally through your own social media platforms. These platforms will be used to encourage and thank members of Congress for their support as well as rally others to the cause.
While the government is in disarray amidst the shutdown and partisan politics, with your help our issue will transcend the bickering. Congress will enact some bipartisan policies in the 116th Congress, and it is up to all of us to make the “Access to Genetic Counselor service Act” a priority.
I want to thank the members of NSGC for your efforts to date…More to come soon!
This article was published in the January 2019 Advocate Newsletter.