Capitol Hill Report: Would You Like to Meet Your Member of Congress?

April 15, 2009

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By Mike Amery, Legislative Counsel, Federal Affairs, (202) 349-4299, mamery@aan.com

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.

Congress is currently on a two-week recess, with members having left Washington and returned to their districts, this is the best time to try to bend the ear of a member of the US House or Senate.

Many members hold Town Hall meetings throughout their districts where they take questions from anyone willing to attend. Information can often be found on the US Representatives Legal Resources page or the US Senate home page. If you do not know who your member of Congress is, you can search by zip code on either site. Once at your representative's website, you can usually see a list of district events, including Town Hall meetings. If you do not see any meeting schedule, you can also access your member's contact information and possibly set up a one-on-one meeting in the district office.

The Academy of Neurology has a number of resources that you can use to bring yourself up–to–date on the latest issues and make suggestions for questions or positions that you want to relay to members of Congress if you want to make a visit in the district. Just contact me at mamery@aan.com and we will help you prepare.

Again, this could be a key time to let your member know that there are serious healthcare reform issues that patients with neurological problems are facing. They really could benefit from hearing from you!

On an issues note, the Academy's Legislative Affairs Committee added a new issue this week to the others they are currently tracking. HR 1615 is the Medical Economic Deferment for Students (MEDS) Act authored by Congressman Vernon Ehlers (R-MI). Many entering medical residents are eligible for economic hardship deferment through the 20/220 rule. Currently, students can defer payment without accruing interest on subsidized loans for up to three years if their debt burden is greater than 20 percent of their income and their income minus their debt burden is not greater than 220 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.

A 2007 change in law eliminated the 20/220 rule with an effective date of July 1, 2009. On that date this assistance for medical students will terminate. While a new income-based repayment program will go into effect, it will not provide a full deferment of federal loans with continued subsidization of subsidized Stafford loan interest for up to three years as does the economic hardship deferment program. Congressman Ehler's bill will change that.

The Academy will be sending Congressman Ehler's office a letter and will activate our Vocus grassroots program with an "Action Alert" at a time when it looks like it could move. Please make sure you respond to Academy Action Alerts! It takes just three clicks and about 30 seconds of your time to send a message to Congress. Use Vocus now and ask Congress to support a plan to fix the physician reimbursement under Medicare system in the Budget bill.

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