February 21, 2019

Making Noise to Protect the Six Protected Classes

The last month has shown that the Academy can make A LOT of noise when necessary. Clearly, our members agree that preventing any reduction in Medicare recipients’ access to drugs within the six protected classes (especially HIV medicines) is very necessary.

Our most visible action is the launch of a publicity campaign urging Congress not to let the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reduce the number of drugs, or institute barriers to those drugs, now in Medicare’s six protected classes. Comprised of inside the beltway media such as, Politico, and The Hill, this campaign has caught the eyes of 27,910 visitors in the last 20 days. It has been widely successful garnering above average click through rates for our digital campaign.

Academy members also played several vital advocacy roles in this campaign. Some agreed to be filmed for campaign spots, along with some people living with HIV (whose participation is deeply appreciated).  You – our members – wrote many of the nearly 8000 public comment statements to CMS on this issue.  You wrote op-eds and letters to the editor that appeared in your local newspapers. Such op-eds and letters to the editor are particularly influential because they tell the Congressmembers that health care professionals in their districts are watching the issue and will note whether and how their Representatives and Senators act on it.

In Washington DC, Academy staff and members met with CMS’s Medicare Director to explain why this issue is life-or-death for people living with HIV. Bruce Packett provided centerpiece quotes for articles in the New York Times and Modern Healthcare among other publications.

This week, members of the Public Policy Committee have started contacting their legislators, asking them to sign on to Congressional letters urging CMS to withdraw its proposal to change the six protected classes. The House letter was authored by Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Will Hurd (R-TX). The Senate letter was written by Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), demonstrating the extent to which this issue spans other political divides. The deadline for Representatives to sign onto the Lee/Hurd letter is Friday, 2/22 and a copy of the letter is available here.  Senators Sinema and Rubio’s offices are accepting Senatorial signatories on their letter until 2/28, and a copy of it is here. There is still time to contact your two Senators and ask them to sign, if they have not already!

We do not know when Congress is likely to take action to counteract CMS’s proposal regarding the six protected classes. Hill staff speculate that, if there is enough pressure against CMS’s position, it may be blocked by the addition of a rider attached to a 2020 appropriation bill. The process of developing the 2020 budget will start this Spring.

View the latest Policy Update here.