Update on H.R. 7083, the “Access to Genetic Counselor Services Act”

By John Richardson, NSGC Director of Policy and Government Relations

The tedious work of having legislation drafted is behind us and the grassroots work has begun! Our first NSGC action alert went to approximately 3,100 United States-based genetic counselors and almost fifty percent sent messages to their member of Congress. The response rate should be celebrated, but continued activity will be critical to success. 

We are already working to hit the ground running when the 116th Congress meets January 3, 2019. Having H.R. 7083 introduced makes this much easier. While Congressman Paulsen was not re-elected, we thank him for his leadership in getting H.R. 7083 introduced along with Congressman Loebsack, who joined Mr. Paulsen as the Democratic lead. Mr. Loebsack is a member of the important House Energy and Commerce Committee.

This is where the excitement begins. Our current plan is to reintroduce the bill in January or early February. Since H.R. 7083 was introduced in late October, we have met with the congressional offices of those members of Congress who sit on the House committees of jurisdiction – Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means. To date, these meetings have been very positive.

We do still need your help. While our response rate for our first action alert was great, we will continue to need NSGC member involvement. Your passion for what you do – and the patients and families you help – is a compelling story that should be shared. 

In the coming weeks and months, the NSGC government relations team will be implementing our grassroots strategy. The goal is to have members of Congress sign onto our bill as original co-sponsors prior to introduction and then post introduction to have as many co-sponsors as possible. Co-sponsorship demonstrates broad support and credibility for our issue.

The government relations team will develop general action alerts and have specific emails for genetic counselors, patients, and physicians to send. We will contact you, our membership, at certain times throughout the year to send these alerts, or to help us reach patients and physician supporters to send alerts. We will also contact individual NSGC members with specific connections or in key legislative districts to reach out to congressional staff of specific offices, in coordination with visits that will be made by members of our Washington, D.C. team, so those members of Congress are aware of the importance of our issue to their constituents as we visit their offices. Many of you have already responded to these requests to take action and they are resulting in support. NSGC makes this easy for you to do. We will provide a draft email and contact information for the Congressional staff. These contacts usually help close the deals that deliver co-sponsors for the bill. 

Please look for these action alerts. General alerts will go through the NSGC email system and the personal alerts will go directly to individual NSGC members. These individuals will make up our Key Contact Network.  If you would like to volunteer to be part of the Key Contact Network, please email advocacy@nsgc.org and we will gladly sign you up.

The coming months will be an exciting time as we work to develop broad support for this important issue that will improve access and reimbursement for genetic counselor services under Medicare.

 

This article was published in the December 2018 Advocate Newsletter.

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