August Update: H.R. 3235, "Access to Genetic Counselor Services Act"

By John Richardson, NSGC Senior Director of Policy and Government Relations

 

Capitol Hill has been quiet over the previous five weeks, and that is about to end when Congress comes back from their summer recess on September 9. NSGC’s long-term work focuses on adding co-sponsors to H.R. 3235, the “Access to Genetic Counselor Services Act,” and in the short term, having organizations sign a group letter supporting H.R. 3235, which will be sent to Congress in September.

Important Grassroots Work: NSGC Needs Your Help

We can’t emphasize enough the importance of having everyone participate in the effort to enact H.R. 3235. There have been over 4,200 bills introduced in 2019 – and we are still in the first year of this Congress. Fifteen years ago, 5,000 bills were typically introduced in an entire Congress (two years). Less than one percent get enacted. Guess which bills move to the President? Bills backed by large powerful groups, and bills that make good public policy sense THAT HAVE significant grassroots backing that raise a lot of noise within the halls of Congress. The squeaky wheel does get the oil on Capitol Hill.

While it is commendable that our community has sent precisely 3,931 emails to the Hill using our grassroots online platform, only 1,566 of the emails were sent by genetic counselors – the others were sent by patients and physicians (which is equally important.) To be successful we need 100 percent participation from NSGC members. Participation includes more than just answering one “call to action.” We will launch several different email campaigns each year. To be the squeaky wheel, we need everyone to respond to each one. Our online grassroots platform is smart; once you have sent an email to your member of Congress you won’t receive additional requests from the same campaign. So please take one minute to respond when you see an alert. That is literally all it takes to contact your member of Congress.

We also have been targeting specific members of Congress with our Key Contact Network (KCN), which consists of genetic counselor volunteers. Their activity is high impact as they communicate with Congressional staff directly and to develop a relationship where they are viewed by the staff as a resource “for all things genetic” within healthcare. NSGC also makes this work efficient for the volunteers as we provide draft emails and the staff contact information. NSGC continues to appreciate our members volunteering in this capacity. If you have volunteered as a KCN and have not been activated yet, stay tuned. If you have not volunteered, but would like to, please sign up at advocacy@nsgc.org.

Recruit Organizations to Sign Support Letter

As previously mentioned, NSGC is working on a letter that will be sent to members of Congress in September. We are requesting organizations that support H.R. 3235 to sign this letter, as it is important to demonstrate the broad-based support we have for the policy. We already have signatories from several organizations that employ genetic counselors such as hospitals and laboratories, patient advocacy organizations, professional and industry associations and societies, and others groups that support improving access to genetic counselors for our nation’s seniors. The sign-on letter and current list of signatories can be found here. Organizations can sign the letter here.

If you know a group that you think may be interested in signing, or your employer has not yet signed, please share this information with the leaders of these organizations. They are more than welcome to contact me at jrichardson@nsgc.org with any questions.

Again, it is extremely important that all within the genetic counselor community participate in these efforts – and that you recruit other like-minded individuals to the effort. Collectively, we can be a very powerful voice.

 

This article was published in the August 2019 Advocate Newsletter.

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