ACTION ALERT: Functional Gastrointestinal and Motility Disorders Research Enhancement Act of 2013 (HR 842)

UPDATE: 06/13/2015: HR 842 did not pass, but a similar bill, HR 2311, is currently in the House of Representatives for 2015-2016. Please click on the HR 2311 sub-category on the right sidebar of this blog to see the relevant posts.

On February 26, 2013, the Functional Gastrointestinal and Motility Disorders Research Enhancement Act of 2013, also known as HR 842, was introduced in the United States House of Representatives. HR 842 addresses public awareness efforts and research funding for functional gastrointestinal and motility disorders like IBS, as well as improved efforts at coordination of research efforts and prescription drug approval among federal entities and the functional GI and motility disorder community.

This is similar to the bill that was known in the 112th Congress in 2011-2012 as HR 2239. Because the composition of Congress changes with each federal election, it is not unusual for legislation that does not pass to be reintroduced in future sessions under different bill numbers depending on the date of introduction.

Like the previous bill, HR 842, is supported by members of both political parties and is a revenue-neutral bill, meaning no new spending or taxes are involved. However, through this legislation, Congress can direct the National Institutes of Health to allocate existing discretionary resources specifically to IBS and other functional gastrointestinal and motility disorders, such as GERD, gastroparesis, chronic idiopathic psuedo-obstruction, functional dyspepsia, short bowel syndrome, Hirschsprung’s disease, cyclic vomiting syndrome, chronic bowel incontinence from various causes, and many others, which collectively affect about 25% of Americans. Irritable bowel syndrome is the most common of these. NIH grants funding to researchers throughout the world, not just in the U.S., so in the long run, enactment of this Act may also benefit readers with IBS in other countries. Medical research often involves multinational teams of scientists, and in any case, study results are usually published globally, adding to cumulative scientific knowledge among professionals and public awareness of various conditions worldwide.

IBS Impact thanks IFFGD for its work in bringing this bill to fruition and urges readers who are U.S. citizens to advocate for this landmark legislation on behalf of people with IBS and related disorders. As with the previous bill, HR 842, was introduced by Representative F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-WI-5) and is currently cosponsored by Representative James Moran (D-VA-8)  In order to pass the House of Representatives in this Congress, it needs support from 218 Representatives, a majority of the House, by the end of the current 113th Congress in December 2014. During 2011-2012, the previous bill received sponsorship or cosponsorship from 17 Representatives in 12 states and both political parties. Some are no longer members of the House of Representatives, but IBS Impact hopes that previous cosponsors who are still in office will continue their support and encourage their colleagues to sign on as well. Now affected people and our supporters must show Congress that this is important enough to pass and enact.

For more information, see IFFGD’s link at
http://www.iffgd.org/hr842action
The text of the bill, the current status and cosponsors can also be accessed directly at any time through THOMAS, the Library of Congress database HR 842 (2013-2014).

IFFGD has set up a Capwiz alert on its page linked above. Capwiz is a software program commonly used by organizations and advocacy groups to mobilize support for legislation related to their causes. To use this tool, type in your zipcode. In some locations where parts of a single zipcode may fall in different districts, you will be prompted to type in the exact street address. Capwiz will automatically identify the correct Representative for that address and generate a partial form letter composed by IFFGD that explains HR 2239 and asks for the Representative’s support. You will have the opportunity to add comments of your own.

Your specific personal experiences as a person with IBS and/or other functional gastrointestinal disorder or a family member, friend or professional who supports us, and how HR 842 is needed are most effective in communicating that we are real people behind the statistics. However, even a polite general request can demonstrate to your Member of Congress that there are many constituents interested in the swift passage of this Act.

Please sign your real full name, physical address and email address in the Capwiz form prior to submitting your email. A message on that screen states that contact information “will not be used for any purpose other than to identify you to the recipient,” your Representative’s office.  This is important so that Congressional staff members know that you  are actually a constituent and potential voter in their district. Many legislators do not accept communications from those outside their own districts. They may also wish to respond to you, although it may take several attempts to attract attention or some time to receive a reply. Capwiz is quick, easy and safe. However, if you prefer not to use IFFGD’s Capwiz link, you can find your Representative’s contact information on http://www.congress.org or his or her official website by searching his or her name in any Internet search engine. Please contact only your member of the U.S. House of Representatives at this time. The President, Senators, Governors or other state or local officials do not have any control over this part of the legislative process.

If writing or calling directly, be sure to state your name, where you live in the Congressional district and that you are a constituent. Tell briefly why you are interested in HR 842, so they know who you are and why the bill is important– such as have had IBS for X years, have had difficulty finding adequate relief or have a family member with IBS, etc. If you are prepared with a few reputable facts and details about IBS in general to show that this is a widespread issue, not just your personal problem, these also help in showing credibility on the issue. So does familiarity with your Representative’s record on or interest in other health issues, but if you do not know these things, telling your own experience is fine. Be sure to say thank you. Then pass the word to family, friends, coworkers or classmates who have been supportive of you with your IBS. Keep in mind that because of the 2012 elections and redistricting, you may have a different Representative than before.

You do not have to be an excellent writer, just one that your Representative and his or her staff will see as a real person with real issues and real needs, not a “canned” request copied and pasted from somebody else’s letter. Keep your message short– one page or less in writing, or a phone message or conversaation of a couple minutes.

This is a major opportunity for the IBS community and its various websites, groups and organizations to come together, regardless of political or philosophical differences, make our needs known, and do something to make our lives better in the future. Self-advocacy to get legislation enacted takes time, effort and patience, but it is possible if more people are willing to make noise publicly, as other health and disability groups do.

For all those with IBS who complain that nobody understands and nobody wants to do anything for us, now is your chance to make yourself heard. Some people want to understand and help. Congress has the power to make this bill happen. Each of us has the power to make it happen by coming out of the closet, getting over the embarrassment and asking publicly and persistently for this very specific help. It only takes a few minutes to write an email or pick up the phone. Please do it.

2 Responses to ACTION ALERT: Functional Gastrointestinal and Motility Disorders Research Enhancement Act of 2013 (HR 842)

  1. Diane Brown says:

    As a person who suffers from many digestive issues, I strongly urge you to pass this bill. Thank you

    • ibsimpact says:

      Diane, thank you for commenting on the IBS Impact blog. Please use the links provided in the post to send that message to your Member of the House of Representatives. As a grassroots group of people with IBS and supporters, we do what we can to get the word out about HR 842, but it is Congress that has the power to pass the actual bill. Congress needs to hear directly from you and others. Thanks.

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