With the return of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) to the Senate floor for the first time since being diagnosed with a brain tumor, the US Senate passed legislation Wednesday to retroactively eliminate a 10.6-percent cut in physician reimbursement under Medicare.
The passage of the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act (HR 6331) came after a great deal of advocacy by physician groups, including the American Academy of Neurology Professional Association (AANPA). Specifically, AANPA sent four action alerts asking Academy members to contact their members of Congress in both the House and Senate. At least 1,500 Academy members responded to one of these alerts.
"The response to action alerts on HR 6331 was unprecedented," said AANPA Legislative Affairs Committee Chair David Charles, MD. "Access to care for Medicare beneficiaries is clearly the top issue of importance to members and the number of members willing to contact Congress was a key reason for winning this close vote."
Neurology-on-the-Hill was also a key component of the AANPA’s efforts. In May over 100 Academy members visited more than half of all US congressional offices to discuss physician reimbursement issues.
The Academy was also active in the halls of Congress through its Washington, DC, office. AANPA’s lobbyists met with dozens of congressional staff to explain the impact that a 10.6 percent cut in Medicare would have on the profession of neurology and the patients that members serve.
Lastly, with the advent of the Academy’s federal political action committee, BrainPAC, AANPA members were responsible for financially supporting many of the campaigns of current members of Congress who pushed hardest for a solution to the 10.6 percent cut.
"Participating on the financial end of the political process definitely worked in our favor on the Medicare vote," said BrainPAC Executive Committee Chair, Bruce Sigsbee, MD. "At least one senator and several House members were swayed by conversations that took place at fundraisers hosted by BrainPAC. Those meetings might have made the difference," concluded Sigsbee.
The AANPA will continue to press for final passage of the bill that has now been sent to President Bush who has threatened a veto. The Academy thanks all of those members who participated in this process.