Capitol Hill Report: Big Week Leading Up to Neurology on the Hill

March 17, 2009


By Mike Amery, Legislative Counsel, Federal Affairs, (202) 349-4299,

The mission of the Academy is to be "indispensable to its members." One way the Academy fulfills this mission is by representing of neurology in the halls of Congress. Capitol Hill Report presents regular updates on legislative action and how the AAN ensures that the voice of neurology is heard on Capitol Hill. The Academy's legislative counsel in Washington, DC, Mike Amery, offers weekly updates on advocacy for neurology and neurologic concerns.

Last week was hearing week on the Hill with several committees considering health care reform. The Senate Finance Committee met Thursday on Workforce Issues (you must have Real Player to view). In his opening remarks, Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont) identified a need to "step back and ask whether we have a solid, national strategy to strengthen our workforce." He added that "Volumes of research have been published on the problems facing our national health workforce," but no clear strategy has emerged. Chairman Baucus consistently has raised concerns about the supply of physicians, nurses, and other health professionals as part of his ongoing work to draft health care reform legislation. One of the panelists, Allan H. Goroll, MD, MACP, Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, specifically mentioned neurology as one of the specialties that will be impacted by needed changes in payments evaluation and management services. The Academy also weighed in with its own statement by President Stephen Sergay, MB, BCh, FAAN. This statement follows up on the Academy's "Critical Role of Neurologists in the Health Care Reform" document.

We continue to make progress in putting forth the views of neurology before members of Congress. This week I met with several offices including with sophomore Zach Space (D-OH), who represents rural southeastern Ohio. Congressman Space said that his constituents face severe physician and other health care service shortages. One of his counties has no primary care physicians and only one drug store, making it difficult for them to access care. Space appreciated the position of neurology as there are only five Academy members in his entire district of more than 600,000 people. Of course, the conversation was not all about the dire position of the health care system: I had to ask if his high school nickname was "Cadet." He informed me that he had heard "Cadet," but most just called him "Outer." The "Space" name he said, although unusual, is of Greek origin and is quite common in Greece.

The next week will be a big one for the Academy, as we have meetings set up with many of the key players in the health care reform debate. Academy Treasurer, Bruce Sigsbee, MD, FAAN, will be in town to meet with several offices, including staff in Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office, Sen. Kennedy's HELP Committee staff, and with Congressman Nathan Deal (R-GA), who is the ranking member of the Energy & Commerce Committee's Health Subcommittee. This all leads up to Neurology on the Hill, which takes place on March 24. Tune in next week for all the details!

Read all of Mike Amery's reports on the Capitol Hill Report page.