On June 26 - 27, more than 330 American Heart Association volunteers and staff from 46 states traveled to Washington, D.C. to urge Congress to lift the burden from heart disease and stroke. Nineteen volunteers represented the Greater Southeast Affiliate, which consists of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.
The first day of the event was quite busy! Volunteers had the chance to network with You're the Cure advocates from across the country, build their advocacy skills and knowledge, attend an inspirational volunteer awards luncheon, and prepare for their Hill visits the next day.
On the second day, advocates gathered for breakfast and listened to Bob Harper from The Biggest Loser share his recent experience with heart disease. He truly inspired the crowd to share their stories with lawmakers that day! And we're glad he did.
In one day, volunteers met with 284 legislative offices, not counting numerous drop by visits, to ask members to:
- Increase National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding for heart and stroke research. A recent association report shows cardiovascular disease (CVD) will continue to be America’s most burdensome disease now and in the future. It is projected that nearly half of the U.S. population will face CVD, with costs exceeding $1 trillion by 2035. The NIH invests just four percent of its budget on heart research and a mere one percent on stroke research, despite this dismal forecast. In addition to that, these levels are not commensurate with research opportunities, and the agency has lost nearly 20 percent of its purchasing power over the past 10 years. Association volunteers will ask their representatives to increase the NIH’s budget by $2 billion for 2018 to account for this. Without sufficient NIH funding, cures and treatments for CVD will be seriously delayed – or worse, never discovered. [NIH fact sheet]
- Improve access to telestroke care by supporting the Furthering Access to Stroke Telemedicine (FAST) Act. Expanding the use of telemedicine will reduce the burden stroke imposes on individuals and their families. It would also increase the number of patients receiving thrombolytic therapies and improve patient outcomes. Unfortunately, Medicare only reimburses telehealth services in rural areas. Eliminating this rural restriction would help encourage widespread use of telestroke services throughout our country. Association volunteers talked with Congress about this provision that would allow Medicare to reimburse for these services regardless of where they live. [telestroke fact sheet]
Increase access to cardiac rehabilitation services. Cardiac rehabilitation reduces the burden of heart disease for patients, their families and our country. However, only about 30 percent of eligible patients take advantage of these programs. To receive reimbursement under Medicare, cardiac rehab services must be provided under the direct supervision of a physician. Unfortunately, this outdated requirement creates an unintended barrier to such services, particularly in rural areas where physicians are scarce. That’s why association volunteers advocated for the cardiac rehab supervision bill that would allow physician assistants, nurse practitioners and clinical nurse specialists to supervise cardiac rehabilitation on a day-to-day basis. [cardiac rehab information sheet]
- Oppose the American Health Care Act or any Senate substitute that reduces access to affordable and adequate health care coverage. The American Heart Association has adopted a set of health care reform principles that requires any changes to current health law to preserve and expand access to affordable and adequate health care coverage.
To the advocates who attended You're the Cure on the Hill this year, thank you! As constituents, you truly make a difference when you share your story and urge our nation’s decision-makers to take action on critical health issues.
To the advocates who participated in our virtual lobby day, thank you! We appreciate you taking the time to amplify the voices of your fellow advocates who were in DC. Together, we can move our mission of building healthier lives free of heart disease and stroke forward.
This year, the Greater Southeast Affiliate was represented by:
Coletta Barrett (LA), Dr. April Carson (AL), Jan Collins (MS), Wanda Dickens (AL), Dr. Louis Glade (LA), Charles Griffin, Lee Hord (TN), Jessica James (AL), Margie Jepson (MS), Sheron Lee (LA), Natasha Smith Lewis (LA), Christian Marks (TN), Lorean Mays (TN), Robin Safley (FL), Dr. Rebecca Sugg (MS), Dr. Richard Summers (MS), Tonya Ware (MS), and Lisa Wilson (GA).