Bruce Sigsbee and Michael Amery Discuss Sigsbee's Landmark Testimony Before Congress

April 17, 2009

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Bruce Sigsbee, MD, FAAN,
during the April 2 hearing.
(photo credit: Charles Votaw)
On Thursday, April 2, AAN Treasurer and President-Elect Bruce Sigsbee, MD, FAAN, testified before the US House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee on behalf of the Academy during the hearing "Making Health Care Work for American Families: Saving Money, Saving Lives." The hearing focused on health care quality and cost control. Sigsbee and Michael Amery, the Academy's legislative counsel in Washington, DC, discussed the hearing with Glen R. Finney, MD.

Finney: What events led to you being asked to testify before Congress?

Amery: Dr. Sigsbee joined me for a day on the Hill with key health care committees to discuss health care reform from the perspective of neurology. The purpose of our day on the Hill was to put together the best arguments for us to bring back to our Neurology on the Hill advocates, who were coming into town the next week.

Sigsbee: Mike Amery had called several offices saying he had with him the incoming President-Elect of the American Academy of Neurology and BrainPAC chair, and we were thus able to arrange several meetings with important staff members of key committees of jurisdiction, who were impressed not just by my status as incoming President-Elect, but also as an "In-the-Trenches" neurologist in a small community, and part of a stroke center. It was this spectrum of experience that moved them to invite me to testify.

Glen R. Finney MD
Finney: How did Academy advocacy programs help lead to this opportunity?

Sigsbee: Increasingly, over the last five to six years, we at the Academy have committed resources and time to advocacy efforts, including such initiatives as having a representative, Mike Amery, posted in Washington, DC, sending neurologist advocates to Neurology on the Hill events, and all the other advocacy efforts of both the AAN and the AAN Professional Association have raised our profile and credibility on Capitol Hill, leading to this advocacy success.

Finney: What potential benefits to neurology come with the opportunity to testify?

Sigsbee: I think one benefit is making certain that, as health care reform moves forward this year, all aspects of neurology, ranging from procedure-based activities such as electromyography and nerve conduction studies to more face-to-face cognitive services such as coordination of care for complicated, chronically ill, neurology patients, will be recognized as important and accounted for properly as health care reform unfolds. I also think seeing a representative of the Academy testify before the vital Subcommittee on Health of the House Energy and Commerce Committee demonstrated to others, such as other professional groups, that we are a serious stakeholder in health care reform.

Michael Amery, Esq.
Amery: Dr. Sigsbee's testimony increases the profile of the Academy on Capitol Hill and helps solidify our presence as a player in the health care reform debate. Also, the message that Dr. Sigsbee brought of encouraging Congress to realign the incentives Congress provides for delivering medical care to ensure a more balanced physician workforce is being heard by Congress, and this testimony adds to that fact.

Finney: What can Academy members do to build on the progress that this testimony represents?

Sigsbee: Academy members need to be active in advocacy, especially reaching out to their own Senators and Representatives, as major health care reform is likely to happen this year, and we need to be heard to improve care and reduce cost for our neurology patient population.

Amery: Academy members can continue to press their members of Congress to push for health care reform that eliminates the 21 percent cut in Medicare reimbursement that all physicians face on January 1, 2010. They can do this by responding to Academy "Action Alerts" that ask them to send an email message to their congressional offices with just a few clicks through the Academy's online advocacy system. They can also look for any opportunities in their home states to influence the process by writing letters to the editor, attending congressional Town Hall meetings, and taking any opportunity to let people know that access to care is being threatened.

Finney: Dr. Sigsbee, thank you for your time, your testimony, and your service to neurology. Mr. Amery, is there something else Academy members should know about our advocacy efforts?

Amery: Participating in the process is vital. I'd encourage all Academy members to commit to being advocates for their patients and their profession. It is the only way that we can ensure that the voice of neurology will be heard.

Related Resources

For questions or comments, please contact Mike Amery, AAN Professional Association Legislative Counsel, at mamery@aan.com or at (202) 349-4299.

Author Disclosures

Within the past year, Dr. Finney has received research support for work as a site investigator for Myriad, and as a site Principal Investigator for Novartis.

Dr. Sigsbee and Mike Amery have nothing to disclose.