This summer, I am working as a Health Policy Intern with the National Consumers League (NCL). NCL is a nonprofit advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. that represents the interests of consumers in a number of policy areas, including healthcare and prescription drugs, fraud, labor, and food safety. I chose to work at NCL because I believe that it is important that we ensure consumers are protected from high costs and bad practices when they seek medical care. Any effort to fix our broken healthcare system must put patients at the center. NCL seeks to address injustices of all kinds that are committed against consumers. These can range from direct scams to broken systems that profit off of consumers’ suffering.
In terms of health policy, NCL works to fix injustices related to anti-vaccine misinformation, pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) that fail to pass drug rebate savings onto consumers, unregulated CBD, and prescription drug access, among many other initiatives. To address these injustices, NCL uses many different strategies: pushing for specific bills and policies to lawmakers and government officials; engaging in coalition-building with other stakeholders to advocate for issues; and providing educational resources directly to consumers, as with their medication adherence program Script Your Future, and their website with information on the unregulated CBD market 4safecbd.org, among others.
I have been responsible for a variety of different projects including writing statements in support of or opposition to multiple bills, conducting research on health policy issues, creating profiles on key members of Congress, and updating NCL’s health policy positions for their website. One of the statements that I helped to write was in support of the Protecting Seniors Through Immunizations Act, a bill making its way through Congress that would eliminate copays for all vaccines covered under Medicare Part D. Currently, vaccines are covered with no out-of-pocket costs under private insurance, Medicaid, and Medicare Part B. Unfortunately, the vaccines covered under Medicare Part D come with copays often totaling over $100. I was very happy to be able to advocate for increased vaccine access, an issue that I believe is very important for our society, especially as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through NCL’s efforts in support of this bill, I have seen how bills are passed behind the scenes. I have valued the opportunity to sit in on meetings with other advocacy groups, stakeholders, and congressional staff as we attempt to ensure that this bill becomes law. All of these smaller actions are what push policy through government. Additionally, while small fixes like those provided in the Protecting Seniors Through Immunizations Act are not nearly enough to fix America’s horribly broken healthcare system, they certainly have the potential to improve people’s lives and create a healthier society for all of us. And even the big, sweeping changes that so many of us desire require behind-the-scenes policy and advocacy work to successfully implement them.