Capitol Hill Report: Supporting Headache Research

June 8, 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.

Although the broad topic of Health Care Reform leads the headlines, Congress is still working on several other issues, including the 13 annual Appropriations bills required to fund the federal government each year.

In recent years, the Academy has followed the issue of traumatic brain injury closely. This year we are supporting a request of $30 million in the Department of Defense Appropriations bill that will go to headache research through the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP). CDMRP has been a good avenue to pursue research dollars, and the Academy, along with the National MS Society, has been successful in the past in directing funds through this program to MS research. Letters of support were sent to the chairs and ranking members of the Defense Subcommittees of both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.

The Academy appreciates the work of Palatucci Advocacy Leadership Fellow Teshamae Monteith, MD, of Pennsylvania, who has made federal support for headache research the focus of her advocacy action plan. I am looking forward to joining Dr. Monteith on Capitol Hill on June 16 to lobby key offices on the issue. The Academy has also supported Headache on the Hill, an effort lead by Robert E. Shapiro. MD, PhD, of Vermont to bring neurologists and patient advocates to Capitol Hill to support headache research.

In an earlier post I mentioned that a controversial issue around health reform would be the question of whether there would be a public plan option for health insurance. While that remains a key question, another has arisen around whether to tax employer-sponsored health benefits. Because of the enormous costs of covering the uninsured and other reforms Congress would like to accomplish, members of Congress and the Administration are finding funding sources difficult to come by. Although he opposed the idea during the campaign and his staff reiterated that position two weeks ago, President Obama said last week that he is now open to considering a tax on those benefits. The Washington Post recently published a good article on this subject.

According to the Post article, "private-sector businesses spend about $518 billion a year on their workers' health insurance, benefits that are not taxed. If workers had to pay taxes on their health coverage, it would raise $246 billion in revenue each year, according to the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation."

Obama continues to make health reform his top agenda item: at a recent meeting of Democratic lawmakers, the president called on the lawmakers to send him a comprehensive health reform bill by the end of the year. (Read a digest of related reports here.)

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