U.S. Pain’s Director of State Advocacy and Alliance Development Shaina Smith was among the speakers at the Biotechnology Innovation Organization’s (BIO) Patient and Health Advocacy Summit held Oct. 25 and 26 in Washington, D.C. The annual event brings together patient advocacy organizations, academia, regulators, biotechnology industry, and other stakeholders to discuss timely policy issues and share best practices. This year, attendees were treated to a surprise appearance from U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar.
Volunteers who have signed up to join the Advocacy Network joined an invitation-only training webinar to learn about an issue impacting families and individuals across the country: surprise bills.
The presentation was the first of a series of advocacy training webinars scheduled for the upcoming year, according to Director of State Advocacy and Alliance Development, Shaina Smith. “We’re really trying to develop and offer resources that will improve the lives of people with chronic illness through education,” Smith explains. “The more we learn as a community, the greater chance we will have at successfully moving patient-friendly policies forward.”
Policymakers across both aisles have had mixed viewpoints when it comes to cultivating cannabis, not in the literal sense, but as it relates to bills that would permit individuals to access medical cannabis. Several states, however, are expanding or considering expanding their medical cannabis programs, including Illinois, New York, and New Jersey. In addition, some federal institutions have taken steps to improve access: the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and Congress.
U.S. Pain Foundation’s Director of State Advocacy and Alliance Development Shaina Smith has been appointed to serve on a pain management design group put together by Connecticut’s Office of Health Strategy (OHS).
The Primary Care Modernization initiative is intended to enable primary care providers to expand and diversify their care teams and provide more flexible, non-visit-based methods for patient care, support, and engagement. The design process will result in a proposed program model that details new care delivery capabilities for Connecticut’s primary care practices and payment model options that support those capabilities.
Patients with back pain in Delaware will have access to interdisciplinary pain care, following Gov. John Carney’s signing of Senate Bill 225.
The act develops a pilot program within the state employee health care plan that allows the use of massage therapy, acupuncture, and yoga to treat back pain. It also prohibits health plans from placing annual or lifetime limits on chiropractic and physical therapy visits.
The late summer has brought the heat to Oregon after residents caught wind of a proposed change to Medicaid that would force patients with chronic pain to taper off opioid medications within one year beginning in 2020. While many states have enacted tougher restrictions on pain medications in response to the opioid crisis, none have gone so far as to completely eliminate the use of opioids by people with chronic pain who show no signs of misuse.
After a two-year effort put forth by the Illinois Fair Care Coalition, a group of patient and provider groups co-led by U.S. Pain Foundation and the Arthritis Foundation, children and adults living with chronic conditions will no longer face potentially harmful prescription coverage changes during the health plan year. Governor Bruce Rauner signed House Bill 4146 into law at the end of August, a bipartisan measure that will help protect families from an unfair insurance practice known as non-medical switching.
California has long been a harbinger of medical cannabis access. In 1996, it approved medical cannabis for patients with a physician’s recommendation, and in 2016, it legalized marijuana for all residents. Continuing to lead the way on this therapeutic treatment option, lawmakers are considering Assembly Bill 1996, which would establish a research program on the medical use of cannabis. It would be the first of its kind in the country.
The Massachusetts legislature passed a landmark opioid bill that includes help for people with pain. The bill passed at a quarter to midnight on July 31, 15 minutes before the end of the 2017-2018 formal session; the Governor signed the bill into law the following week. U.S. Pain’s National Director of Policy and Advocacy Cindy Steinberg, who also serves as Policy Council Chair of the Massachusetts Pain Initiative, worked closely behind the scenes to ensure the legislation would do as much to improve pain management as it would to ameliorate the opioid crisis.
In the midst of a spate of laws restricting access to care and medication for chronic pain patients, several states are quietly trying to ensure that patients can access alternative or complementary treatment options.
“We know that many people with debilitating conditions are increasingly turning to alternative approaches, but the professionals licensed to practice in these areas are poorly reimbursed, if at all,” says Shaina Smith, Director of State Advocacy and Alliance Development. “Bills introduced this session relating to such alternative treatments are beginning to change this.”