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Durbin Co-Chairs COPD Caucus

June 30, 2011

Richard Durbin
Richard Durbin

Mike Crapo
Mike Crapo

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Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) has agreed to serve as Senate co-chair along with Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) of the Congressional COPD Caucus. The caucus is made up of members of Congress who actively support people living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease nationwide.

“Approximately 24 million Americans—including 557,120 people in Illinois—are living with COPD," says Senator Durbin. "While there is no cure, the causes are largely preventable. Prevention starts with protecting the air we breathe and I have long been committed to that effort during my time in Congress.”

AARC President Karen Stewart, MSc, RRT, FAARC, believes Sen. Durbin's decision to take on this active role in advocating for people with COPD will help the entire COPD support community move its agenda forward. “As Assistant Senate Majority Leader, Sen. Durbin has great demands on his time, and we appreciate his willingness to help improve the quality and quantity of life for our patients with COPD.”

AARC members from Senator Durbin's home state of Illinois have been advocating for pulmonary patients with the Senator and his staff for some time now, helping to educate them about COPD, its treatment and causes as well as the great toll it takes not only on those Americans who suffer from COPD but their families who care for them.

“COPD is currently the third leading cause of death. The disease is also among the top seven diagnoses responsible for costly readmissions to the hospital,” continues Stewart. Senator Durbin, like many others in government today, are recognizing the need to provide better treatments and more comprehensive and seamless care for these patients so they can stay healthier and out of the costly acute care setting. COPD costs our nation over $30 billion dollars a year and is increasing.”

HR 941, the legislation AARC is supporting in the House of Representatives, would help achieve that goal by providing easier access to the services of a respiratory therapist for Medicare patients with COPD being treated in outpatient settings, such as the physician's office.

“H.R. 941 would allow certain qualified respiratory therapists to provide smoking cessation, inhaler education, and other disease management services to COPD patients in these settings,” notes Stewart. “We believe, and studies have shown, that patients with access to high quality disease management services are less likely to experience acute flare-ups of their disease that can end up in costly hospitalizations."

The AARC believes having Sen. Durbin join Sen. Crapo at the helm of the Congressional COPD Caucus will help to move the bill forward in the Senate, where it is currently awaiting introduction. “As the leading national organization representing the respiratory therapists who provide day-to-day care for COPD patients, we appreciate his dedication to promoting state-of-the-art care for people with this chronic lung disease and look forward to working with him to achieve our collective goals,” says Stewart.

The Congressional COPD Caucus was created in 2004 by Sen. Crapo as a bipartisan, bicameral way to raise awareness of COPD. Sen. Crapo was joined by then-Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), and Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) and Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) in the House. Working with professional and patient organizations, the Caucus has addressed the need to ease air travel with supplemental oxygen, made pulmonary rehabilitation a permanent benefit for Medicare beneficiaries, and enhanced data collection that will assist with tailoring the public health response to COPD.