AASLD addresses a wide range of policies that affect researchers, clinicians, and patients, by focusing on issues critical to the science and practice of hepatology. In our advocacy work, we engage with Congress and members of the executive branch to influence legislation and implement federal programs to advance AASLD's core missions. The Public Policy Committee informs these efforts by prioritizing issues of importance, providing subject matter expertise, and playing an active role in AASLD’s advocacy activities.
AASLD is committed to educating Congress and key federal officials on the growing burden of liver disease, to inform policies that support research and treatment of hepatic disorders. Along these lines, the Public Policy Committee has recently:
- Held a virtual Capitol Hill Day in March 2022, during which AASLD members, patients, and representatives of partnering patient advocacy organizations met with many Congressional offices.
- Submitted testimony to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees expressing our support for Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 appropriations for the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Viral Hepatitis; and
- Launched an advocacy campaign supporting Congressional action to create a national liver disease strategy.
HCV Plan Rural Health Impact
On behalf of the 70 undersigned organizations representing patients, providers, and public health organizations, we urge Congress to adopt legislation to eliminate hepatitis C and deliver better outcomes for hepatitis patients living in rural communities. These communities are disproportionately impacted by hepatitis C, seeing infection rates that are often estimated to be twice as high as those in urban areas. Fortunately, hepatitis C is curable with an 8-to-12-week oral therapy that is highly tolerated and over 95 percent effective. This epidemic does not have to continue in our most vulnerable communities, and passing legislation to eliminate hepatitis C will ensure that all Americans can know their hepatitis status and be connected to a low-cost cure. See the letter here.
Capitol Hill Day
On April 4, AASLD welcomed 51 advocates, including AASLD members, patient advocates, and society staff, in support of advancing priorities related to the prevention and treatment of liver disease. Advocates joined 54 meaningful conversations with members of Congress and their staff to discuss AASLD’s top priorities. Specifically, participants urged members to (1) support authorizing legislation to implement the White House’s national plan to eliminate hepatitis C in the United States in five years; and (2) support for the development of a Department of Health and Human Services-wide strategic plan to combat all liver diseases. AASLD’s fact sheets on both requests can be found here.
Advocates met with the staff of members of Congress who are on committees relevant to these legislative requests. Additionally, they shared personal perspectives regarding their experience living with or caring for patients with liver disease. They also shared key liver disease statistics and findings relevant to their state and district. AASLD members and patient advocates made a lasting impact through these conversations, and we look forward to staying engaged with members of Congress and continuing to reinforce the need to prioritize the prevention, treatment, and study of liver diseases.
- 51 advocates from 16 states and Washington, D.C.
- 54 meetings – 32 in the Senate and 22 in the House
- 7 meetings with Committee Leadership
- 27 meetings with members on Committees relevant to AASLD requests
If you have any questions regarding AASLD’s advocacy, please contact Erika Miller.
Friends of NIDDK
As a member of the Friends of the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), AASLD joined with 30 other patient, provider, and research organizations to urge Congress to finalize the fiscal year (FY) 2023 omnibus funding bill with at least $47.5 billion for the base budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and a comparable increase of at least $2.485 for the NIDDK to ensure the US continues to lead the world in providing new and better cures, diagnostics, and treatments while protecting all patients and the research enterprise. See the letter here.
Combatting Liver Disease: Eliminating Hepatitis C
On Wednesday, March 15, 2023, AASLD convened for the third installment in the Combatting Liver Disease briefing series focusing on the elimination of hepatitis C. The briefing included a robust discussion on the public health burden of hepatitis C and the Biden Administration's plans to develop a national hepatitis C elimination program. AASLD was fortunate to be joined by a panel of experts in the field, including:
- Dr. Francis Collins, Special Project Advisor to President Joe Biden and Former Director of the National Institutes of Health
- Dr. Norah Terrault, AASLD President, and Professor of Medicine and Chief of Gastroenterology and Liver Diseases at Keck Medical Center of the University of Southern California
- Dr. Julius Wilder, AASLD Public Policy Committee Co-Chair and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Duke University School of Medicine
- Ryan Clary, Hepatitis Advocate and Non-Profit Consultant
If you were unable to join us live, we recommend watching the recording below to learn more about the three main components of the White House's elimination plan: details on the disease progression and burden of hepatitis C if no action is taken, perspectives of a long time hepatitis C advocate who has been personally impacted by the disease, and the significant actions AASLD is taking to eliminate hepatitis C.
RECORDING LINK: HERE
Combatting Liver Disease: Liver Cancer
On December 6, 2022, AASLD held its second briefing in the Combatting Liver Disease series focused on liver cancer – the third leading cause of cancer death in 2020 – and important public policy implications. The briefing was moderated by Dr. Steven Lidofsky, Chair of AASLD's Public Policy Committee, and featured remarks from several distinguished leaders in the field and insights from the patient perspective.
Specifically, panelists included:
- Dr. Doug Lowy, National Cancer Institute
- Dr. Liz Pomfret, University of Colorado
- Dr. Lewis Roberts, Mayo Clinic
- Tony Villiotti, Founder of NASH kNOWledge, and a liver cancer and liver transplant survivor
By watching the briefing, you will hear an overview of the issue, a discussion of what it’s like to live with liver cancer, and both the public health practitioner and medical research perspective on policies that can help combat liver cancer.
RECORDING LINK: HERE
Combatting Liver Disease: Alcohol-Associated Liver Disease
On Tuesday, September 20, 2022, AASLD sponsored the first Congressional briefing in their Combatting Liver Disease series for policy makers focusing on alcohol-associated liver disease. Moderated by AASLD Governing Board President Dr. Laurie DeLeve, speakers included:
- Dr. George Koob, Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
- Dr. Vijay Shah, Mayo Clinic (AASLD Board Treasurer)
- Dr. Jessica Mellinger, University of Michigan (AASLD Member)
- Brian Bourgault, a person living with ALD
Speakers briefed the audience on changes to the ALD population, the challenges of securing funding for ALD-related research, and the perspective of someone who lives with a liver transplant due to ALD. Additional discussion focused on the future of digital health and AI in clinical trials and managing patient care for people who are at risk or develop ALD.
RECORDING LINK: HERE
Advocacy for Telehealth
Telehealth flexibilities have improved access to hepatology specialists during the COVID-19 pandemic and will remain an important tool for delivering comprehensive care to patients with liver disease. In March 2022, Congress approved a 151-day extension of certain telehealth flexibilities, including the elimination of the originating site and geographic restrictions and coverage of audio-only services, once the public health emergency concludes. AASLD will continue to advocate for these flexibilities as well as continued payment parity between in-person and telehealth services.
AASLD Weighs in on ARPA-H
President Biden proposed the creation of a new research accelerator called the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) in his Fiscal Year 2022 budget request. Congress appropriated the first $1 billion for the new entity in its FY 2022 omnibus spending package. AASLD supports the new entity in concept and believes it has the potential to advance our understanding of liver disease. However, the society is concerned that funding for the new entity will supplant, not supplement, money for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). To prevent the lines between the two entities from blurring, AASLD is advocating for ARPA-H to be placed outside NIH.
Each year, the Public Policy Committee develops a policy agenda, which is then approved by the Governing Board, to guide our annual advocacy activities. While the agenda serves as a framework for implementing strategic initiatives, it is recognized that AASLD is prepared to respond dynamically to unforeseen opportunities or threats that may reshape its actions.
Efforts Around COVID-19
In a joint letter to Congress [PDF], AASLD, American College of Gastroenterology (ACG), American Gastroenterological Association (AGA), and American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE) call on policymakers to protect you, your colleagues, and patients from COVID-19 by:
- Increasing funding for and access to personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Easing prior authorization and Medicare reporting requirements
- Providing financial safeguards for health care professionals and practices.
COVID-19 Checklists and Tools to Accelerate Relief for State Medicaid & CHIP Programs
- 1115 Waiver Opportunity and Application Checklist
- 1135 Waiver Checklist
- 1915(c) Appendix K Template
- Medicaid Disaster State Plan Amendment Template
On Monday, March 30, 2020, CMS released an interim final rule and blanket waivers to provide additional flexibilities to providers during the COVID-19 emergency. AASLD’s Government Relations Consultant CRD Associates prepared this summary [PDF].
CMS released additional waivers on April 9. All of the waivers can be found online [PDF].