Moses Lake boy rubs shoulders with lawmakers

Advocates arthritis research

Riley Gonzales, of Moses Lake, attends a meeting with Sen. Maria Cantwell in Washington, D.C., as part of the Arthritis Foundation's annual advocacy summit.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A Moses Lake boy traveled to Washington, D.C. last week to meet with legislators.

Five-year-old Riley Gonzales traveled with his mother, Brooke Gonzales, to the nation's capitol where he met with legislators and their staff members as part of the Arthritis Foundation's Advocacy Summit.

They met with Sen. Maria Cantwell and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, said Brooke, as well as members of Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Doc Hasting's staff.

"We're hoping that our voices got heard and that it made an impact on them," said Brooke.

One piece of legislation Riley and his peers urged the lawmakers to support was House Bill 4209, the Patients' Access to Treatments Act of 2012.

The bill would limit the cost of co-payments, co-insurance and other cost-sharing requirements of insurance plans for speciality medications. It also improves access to innovations and necessary medications for people with chronic, disabling or life-threatening conditions.

Riley had a chance to share his story with the lawmakers. Riley was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis when he was 11 months old.

Whenever Riley met a legislator or a staff member, he greeted them with a big hug, said Brooke.

"It kind of impacted them a little bit when we told his story," she said. "From the look in their face it made them want to push this a little bit more to get this bill passed for kids like him and the older kids and the adults that suffer from arthritis."

Funding for the Pediatric Subspecialty Loan Repayment Program, which provides incentives for training and practice in medical specialty training in under-served areas, was also discussed, said State Press Secretary Janeen Heath. There are less than 250 pediatric rheumatologists in the United States while nearly 1 in 250 children in the U.S. have some form of arthritis, she said.

Riley and his peers also discussed the importance of continuing investment in research at the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Defense.

Since the meeting, Sen. Cantwell joined the bicameral Congressional Arthritis Caucus. She is the fifth senator to join, said Heath.

The summit wasn't all work. Riley got to sightsee and met with other children and adults with arthritis from all over the country, said Brooke.

"It was a great experience and we are hoping to go back," she said.

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