ASN in Action: Leaders Take 2012 Policy Priorities to Congress

On April 26, 2012, the ASN Public Policy Board, Council, and Board of Advisors ascended Capitol Hill to participate in the second annual ASN Hill Day. ASN leaders and staff met with nearly 60 congressional offices in both the House and Senate to address four key issues of importance to ASN’s members and the patients they treat.

The evolving practice environment in nephrology and the Medicare End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) Program: ASN leaders discussed with policymakers the reality that regardless of what the Supreme Court rules regarding the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the changes in the Medicare ESRD Program—including bundled payments and pay-for-performance—will move ahead, as they were mandated by a 2008 law. ASN leaders noted that it’s important that Congress not make any further changes to the program until we have the data to understand the implications for patients, and evaluate how the Medicare ESRD Program may serve as a model for other areas of medicine considering similar payment reforms in the future.

Increasing interaction between the nephrology community and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA): ASN is committed to promoting dialog and collaboration with the FDA to promote kidney health and protect patient safety. ASN leaders, including President Ronald Falk, MD, FASN, and President-Elect Bruce Molitoris, MD, FASN, discussed these goals with key members of Congress.

Providing lifetime immunosuppressive drug coverage for kidney transplant recipients: ASN remains dedicated to advocating support for S.1454/H.R.2969, which would extend lifetime coverage of immunosuppressive drugs for patients with kidney transplants. ASN leaders met with approximately a dozen offices, specifically targeting members of Congress who supported this bill when it was introduced in the 111th Congress, but who had not signed onto the bill in the 112th Congress (the current session). ASN received three commitments from lawmakers to support the bill, bringing the legislation closer to its goal of passage this year.

The importance of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) medical research funding, requesting a 4.5 percent increase over the Fiscal Year 2013 budget: Protecting medical research funding is a sound investment that helps bring new cures to patients, drives economic growth, and defends the United States’ position as the world leader in medical research.

Besides meeting with their own congressional delegations, ASN members also conducted key strategic meetings with members of Congress who sit on committees with jurisdiction over ASN’s key issues, including leaders on the Senate and House Appropriations Subcommittees on Health, House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health, and the Senate Health, Energy, Labor, and Pensions Committee. And for the first time, ASN “live-tweeted” Hill Day, complete with live pictures and captions describing the issues that were covered in each meeting.

Nearly 30 ASN leaders visited congressional offices for ASN Hill Day 2012.


Sen. John Cornyn’s (R-TX) health fellow Scott Kercheville, MD, discussed the evolving practice environment in nephrology with (back row) Councilor Jonathan Himmelfarb, MD, FASN; Public Policy Board member Suzanne Watnick, MD; ASN Manager of Policy and Government Affairs Rachel Shaffer; (front row) Public Policy Board member Barry Straube, MD; and Secretary-Treasurer Donald Wesson, MD, FASN.


Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA), ranking member of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, and Public Policy Board member Barry Straube, MD, discussed ASN’s principles related to integrated nephrology care delivery models.


Councilor Eleanor Lederer, MD, FASN (center), explained the value of NIH and NIDDK funding to the Louisville, KY, economy with Rep. John Yarmouth’s (R-KY) health care staff.


Councilor Sharon Moe, MD, FASN, and Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-LA) concluded their meeting about health disparities in kidney disease and the importance of research.


Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) (center, yellow tie) listened to ASN Public Policy Board members and staff explain the Medicare ESRD Program’s early experiences with health reforms, such as pay-for-performance, that precede similar components of the Affordable Care Act.


House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chair Rep. Wally Herger (R-CA) and his staff listen to Public Policy Board member Barry Straube, MD, discuss implementation of bundled payments and the Medicare ESRD Program.


ASN leaders met with four staff members for the Congressional Kidney Caucus leadership. President Ronald Falk, MD, FASN, (center) spoke about kidney health and the FDA drug approval process with caucus Co-Chair Rep. Jim McDermott, MD (D-WA) health counsel Andrew Adair (Dr. Falk’s immediate left); caucus Co-Chair Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA) legislative director Drew Kent (Dr. Falk’s immediate right), along with (clockwise) ASN President-Elect Bruce A. Molitoris, MD, FASN; ASN Manager of Policy and Government Affairs Rachel Shaffer; and ASN Executive Director Tod Ibrahim. Not shown: Kathleen Hall, legislative assistant to caucus Vice-Chair Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL) and Katie Doherty, senior legislative assistant to caucus Vice-Chair Rep. John Fleming, MD (R-LA).


ASN President Ronald Falk, MD, FASN, and Monica Volante, legislative director for Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-PA), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, discussed how to achieve ASN’s goals for increasing interaction between the FDA and the nephrology community to promote kidney health.


“ASN is committed to advancing care of kidney patients,” ASN Public Policy Board Chair Thomas H. Hostetter MD, said. “On ASN Hill Day, we asked lawmakers to keep patients in mind. We recognize that at this time Congress has to make tough choices about how it spends taxpayer dollars. But ASN’s policy priorities—such as extending Medicare coverage for immunosuppressive drugs and investing in medical research—are clear wins. Besides saving lives, they generate jobs, drive economic growth, and keep America competitive in research and development. I hope we can count on Congress’ continued bipartisan support of these important issues.”

June 2012 (Vol. 4, Number 6)