Advocacy, Multiple sclerosis

Ms. MS blogger goes to Washington

Well, not quite. Washington came to me. OK, we met halfway. Sort of.

Lawmakers are back in their home states this month, doing the usual business tours and town halls and baby-forehead kissing.

They are also hearing from their constituents. Which is how I found myself in Rep. Tim Griffin’s conference room Wednesday afternoon.

Politics as an abstract subject intrigues me. In practice, it can frustrate me. Still, when I look around the world at these crumbling dictatorial regimes I realize just how good we have it here. No, our system isn’t perfect, but I’m not fleeing my drought-ridden, war-torn country or holed up in a house pock-marked with the scars of battle.

But our democracy requires our participation to make it work. Which is why I joined the MS Society as a volunteer activist and  why I found myself at that conference table telling Griffin that indeed, several Republicans had signed on to H.R. 2595. The resolution would create a national data collection system for neurological diseases, MS among them. (Thanks, iPhone, for helping me pull up that info so quickly!)

Griffin was straight with our group of MS activists — he said he wouldn’t latch onto a piece of legislation just to win us over — he wanted to ensure that it could pass. He asked a lot of questions, requested more information and said his staff would research the resolution.

But we didn’t have enough time to talk to him fully about the bigger issue we had on the agenda — one that would correct an oversight to the health-care act that left neurologists off the list of specialties to receive Medicare payment incentives. It’s important because this country needs more neurologists, and patients’ access to care must expand, not contract.

Multiple sclerosis is the most common chronic disabling disease of the central nervous system in young adults. Early diagnosis and treatment is essential in the long-term management of this disease. And if neurologists aren’t getting properly reimbursed for their cognitive care services, there will be a drop in access and in quality of care.

Government comes down to a math equation, really. There’s A amount of money coming in, and B amount of money going out to about a million different programs and agencies and who all knows what? And B is way more than A right now, which means that a lot of worthy legislation might not have a snowball’s chance in hell to pass.

So our goal is to prove efficiency in the case of the national registry. And on the bigger issue, which comes down to correcting an oversight, let’s hope lawmakers can rectify it, and soon.




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