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By Erika Miller, Cavarocchi – Ruscio – Dennis Associates, Consultants to AASLD

Once the 114th Congress is sworn in, the halls of Congress will be populated by a lot of new members as a result of the November elections. Regardless of your thoughts about the election's outcome, these new members and returning members need to be educated on the burden of liver disease and the policies that impact the care you provide to your patients.
 
March 25, 2015, marks the Seventh Annual Liver Capitol Hill Day sponsored by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, and it couldn't come at a better time. Without Congressional intervention, Medicare physician reimbursement will be cut by 20 percent on April 1, threatening patient access to care. Congress will also be in the early stages of development of the annual spending bills that fund the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We also must continue the conversation on the burden of the viral hepatitis epidemic and the promise that new hepatitis C therapies hold.

Any decisions Congress makes will impact the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, your patients' access to health care services and other programs of importance to you and to AASLD. Your expertise is a vital part of these discussions.  If you do not educate Congress on how these programs impact the study and treatment of liver disease, no one else will.

AASLD will provide all the tools you need to succeed on Liver Capitol Hill Day. The Public and Clinical Policy Committee will develop an agenda. Meetings with members of the House and Senate and their staffs will be scheduled for you.  You will be supplied with information in advance on process, topics, and who you will be meeting with, so you will be fully prepared. AASLD will be creating a Liver Capitol Hill Day website that will include information about the issues you will cover and what to expect during your meetings.

The morning of Liver Capitol Hill Day you will attend a breakfast briefing at which all of the issues you will be bringing to the Hill will be discussed and information to leave behind during your Congressional visits that will summarize the issues will be provided. This information will also be available in advance on the AASLD website.

What makes your participation critical is that you know firsthand how liver disease impacts constituents in the member's state or district. We hope that this visit will be the start of an ongoing relationship with the offices, which will require follow up on your part.  We will also be providing tips on how to best follow up and remain in contact with those whom you meet.

AASLD members are encouraged to invite a patient to accompany them during their meetings; the combination of physician and patient is a very powerful one on Capitol Hill. In addition, we have invited patient advocacy groups, including the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable, the Caring Ambassadors Program, and the American Liver Foundation, to participate in the event.

If you are interested in participating, please register by February 1. To participate, please contact Greg Bologna at gbologna@aasld.org.