Wednesday May 2nd was the 1st Annual California Arthritis Advocacy Day put on by the California Arthritis Foundation Council (CAFC) and Rich and I were able to participate.
We went to the state capitol and had meetings scheduled every 30 minutes (from 1-4:30pm) with Assembly Members, Senators and/or their staff to discuss upcoming bills that would be voted on and why they should vote yes. In the meetings we introduced ourselves and then told our personal arthritis story so they could put a face with people who would be affected by the passing of these bills.
The bills aren’t specific to arthritis patients, but if passed, they could/would have a huge impact to people with arthritis.
There were apx 45 of us there, some with JA, some with RA; with adult and kids stories so they had every end of the spectrum. The meetings had 4-7 CAFC members and each meeting you went with a different group, so not only did you get the chance to advocate at the capitol, but we also got to meet new people and hear what they’ve been thru.
The meetings went well, Assembly Members, Senators and/or staff who weren’t familiar with the bills took down the info, ones who had voted no, we asked for their support when the bills came back thru and ones who voted yes or had written the bills, we thanked them for their support and asked for their continued support.
Bevin’s story seemed to make a decent impact on a few of the people we met. Most weren’t aware that kids could get arthritis or that more kids have JA than most other childhood diseases COMBINED (including Juvenile Diabetes, Cystic Fibrosis, etc), yet those disease get way more media, publicity and support.
We moved around one of our meetings so we could meet with staff member Tim Reardon from Assembly Woman Allyson Huber’s office. Allyson Huber is the Assembly Woman for district 8 (which is our personal district) and she has a district office located in the city of Rancho Cordova. Due to the fact that’s where we live, Bevin was on the front page of the local paper and the city has been extremely helpful and supportive of our recycling drive, I felt meeting with her office would be most beneficial. And it was!
Tim Reardon was the most receptive and interested out of all the meetings Rich and I had for the day. He took notes, asked lots of questions and really appeared to be interested in what we had to say and our personal stories. For our personal items we had a print out of Bevin’s bio that was used for her honoree items for the walk and added her blog site, team site and facebook page links and I included a flyer for the walk (which has her picture) specifically because the walk is this coming Saturday and held AT the Capitol so since we were at the Capitol I figured that was a good thing to include. For Allyson Huber’s office I had also brought an extra copy of the Grapevine (the newspaper Bevin was on the front page of) since I figured her office would be specifically familiar with that paper…and they were. AND Tim Reardon even went online after we left and made a donation to Bevin’s walk team! How awesome is that!?!?
Us with Tim Reardon and other CAFC members
Overall it was a really great expierence; it was so neat to be there advocating for Bevin and other people with arthritis and actually talking to people who could make a difference for us. Currently none of the three bills apply to Bevin specifically, but down the road they would make a huge difference for her and it’s so great to see that there are Assembly Members who are wanting and willing to work towards these changes.
Here’s a brief summary of the bills we discussed:
AB Bill 1800 (Assembly Member Fiona Ma)
This bill is to establish an annual cap on ALL OOP (out-of-pocket) costs for covered benefits. The OOP will include consumer costs for hospitalization, physicians visits, prescription drugs, copayments, deductibles and any other form of cost-sharing the patient must pay out of their own pocket. Currently lots of OOP maximums don’t include office visit copays, some prescription costs and some even have the deductible on top of the OOP. This bill will also allow you to file a grievance to dispute a denial of prescription drug coverage thru the Independent Medical Review (IMR) process (currently prescription drug benefits are not included in the IMR process).
AB Bill 1636 (Assembly Member Bill Monning)
This bill requires state departments and boards to collaborate and convene a special committee to review the health and wellness programs offered by health care service plans, health insurers and employers. There are insurance carriers as well as employers who currently offer health and wellness programs, which is great, but these programs aren’t the best option (or even an option at all) for people with arthritis (or people with chronic illnesses in general). Currently programs may offer gym access or membership, but most people with chronic illnesses cannot just go to the gym and work out as any normal healthy person can, they have to have specific workouts to fit their needs. Going and working out the way a normal healthy person does can cause more harm then good for someone with a chronic illness.
AB Bill 369 (Assembly Member Jared Huffman)This bill would prohibit the practice known as “Step Therapy” protocol in which a health plan requires you to try and fail on more than two medications before allowing you to have the pain medication that your doctor would prefer you have. For example, if a person was taking a specific drug for 10 years and then they had to change insurance carriers and the new carrier had a “Step Therapy” provision for that drug, even thou you had been taking it for 10 years, the new carrier can/will require you to try different, usually lower cost drugs and show that those failed for you prior to approving the use of a drug you’ve been on for years. The same applies to a new prescription your doctor prescribes you, if the carrier has a “Step Therapy” provision on that drug, even if your doctor prescribed it to you, the carrier can require you to try and fail on other drugs before they will allow you to take what your doctor prescribed.
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