July 2020 Federal Advocacy Update

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

As Congress prepares for its August recess, it is important for NSGC members to maintain momentum and focus on advocating for Medicare recognition and reimbursement. The number of constituent groups and issues vying for attention from Congress is staggering and it is important NSGC members and our stakeholders understand the environment in which we are trying to enact H.R. 3235, the “Access to Genetic Counselor Services Act.”

Here are some numbers:

In the 115th Congress (2017-2018), 18,563 bills and resolutions were introduced, of which 11,206 were bills. Only 417 were enacted into law and 91 of these laws renamed post offices. Only three percent of bills introduced in the 115th Congress became law.

The 116th Congress, which ends in December, is even more daunting. While this can be attributed to the pandemic, in part, these numbers reflect the general legislative trends that exist within Congress. Only 124 bills have been enacted into law out of the 12,155 introduced in this Congress - about one percent.

Why is this important? H.R. 3235 is competing with thousands of bills and it is our job, as advocates, to make this bill a priority for every member of Congress. Each of the 12,155 bills are critically important to a constituent group or they wouldn’t be introduced. We need to make our bill, H.R. 3235, important for all of Congress.

NSGC and our members need to take advantage of all the tools in our advocacy tool belt. 

  • One important tool is gaining support from other organizations, institutions, professional societies and patient advocacy groups. Our collective effort here has been excellent as over 250 organizations support H.R. 3235.
  • Grassroots advocacy is also important. Members of Congress need to hear from their constituents – if they don’t hear from you, your patients and other supporters, they simply won’t care. It is our job to make them care.
  • Our grassroots efforts need to increase in intensity. Part of this will be having members contact Congressional staff directly to begin forming ongoing relationships. This can pay off with genetic counselors offering to serve as resources if a Congressional office has questions regarding genetics and personalized medicine.
  • During the next month, members of Congress will be back in their home districts for August recess. In preparation for the upcoming election, they will be engaging constituents however they can, which will be a challenge during the pandemic.

NSGC asks that you take the time to schedule a meeting with your representative during the month of August. This will help maximize our impact and is easy to do. We will supply you with:

  • The scheduler’s contact info.
  • A draft invitation email that you can send.
  • Talking points and even one-on-one coaching, if you wish, prior to the meeting.

We encourage you to think about bringing patients and physicians to these meetings, whether they are face-to-face (practicing social distancing) or via an online platform. These meetings have a significant impact so please contact us at advocacy@nsgc.org and we can help you set up a meeting.

As a community, we have made good progress in advancing H.R. 3235, but we need to do more collectively. Scheduling these meetings is an important tool to make this bill law. We are optimistic our effort isn’t as daunting as the aforementioned numbers demonstrate. H.R. 3235 likely would be enacted as part of a larger legislative package rather than as a standalone bill. But we still have a lot of work to do.

This article was published in the July 2020 Advocate Newsletter.

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