In this issue of Arthritis Care & Research, we inaugurate an occasional series of commentaries entitled Policy Matters. In all of clinical research, our goal is to improve patient outcomes. Usually, that means focusing on the medical, demographic, and socioeconomic factors at the level of individuals with rheumatic diseases; sometimes, our scope of inquiry expands to encompass the impact of the communities in which they live. However, increasingly, the welfare of persons with rheumatic conditions is also affected by health policies through such diverse mechanisms as reimbursement decisions for specific treatments, insurance coverage, manpower, and NIH budgets (the foregoing list is hardly exhaustive).

Recently, a piece of legislation was introduced in California (SB913) that has the potential to alter the availability of biologic response modifying agents (BRMs) by mandating that health plans that provide coverage for one such agent include all on their formularies (a revised version would preclude a trial of another disease-modifying antirheumatic drug before use of a BRM). In this state, the California Health Benefits Review Program (CHBRP) provides evidence reviews of the medical effectiveness, cost, and public health impact of proposed health insurance mandates for the legislature. The analysts from the University of California who conducted the medical effectiveness review of SB913 for CHBRP provide a legislative history of the proposed law in this article. We hope that the readership of Arthritis Care & Research find this article informative as an exemplar of the policies that could dramatically alter the welfare of our patients.