President's Column: Advocacy is a Top Priority for the Academy

June 30, 2010

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By Robert C. Griggs, MD, FAAN, President, AAN

We continue to lobby members of Congress on the need to fix the flawed sustainable growth rate (SGR) and provide fair reimbursement to neurologists. We must enhance the effectiveness of our advocacy efforts as legislation continues to be developed following the passage of the health care reform bill.

I have appointed President Elect Bruce Sigsbee, MD, FAAN, to head an Advocacy Task Force of key leaders to make advocacy priority one for the AAN. Others on the Task Force are Drs. Elaine Jones, Anna Hohler, Susan McDermott, Neil Busis, John Hixson, Robin Brey, and Nick Johnson, as well as AAN Executive Director and CEO Cathy Rydell, CAE, and Chief Health Policy Officer Rod Larson.

"The Advocacy Task Force will evaluate our efforts on legislative, regulatory, and payer initiatives," says Sigsbee. "We will examine our advocacy programs, projects, and resources, as well as member participation in our efforts. We will compare our efforts and resources to those of comparable specialty societies. We will recommend strategies to maximize member engagement in grassroots advocacy programs to increase AAN/state neurological society advocacy collaborations and enhance communication, input, and collaboration with the AMA, state societies, patient organizations, subspecialty societies, and national medical societies. Our goal is have a plan to increase our effectiveness for the Board's action by October 2010."

However, we will not be successful in our mission to advocate for neurology without the help and direct participation of each Academy member. AAN leadership and staff can pave the way, but those who speak loudest to our legislators are you: their constituents and voters. Every voice matters. Here's how you can help:

Stay Informed
The Academy is committed to keeping members informed about the events in Washington that stand to impact you and your patients. Read updates online at www.aan.com/advocacy and in AANnews®, AANe-news®, Neurology Today®, and the AAN's Legislative Updates emailed to US members when there is timely policy news.

Take Action on Emails You Receive from the Academy Grassroots Network
It's most important for Congressional offices to know how their constituents feel on certain issues. By far the easiest way to get involved is to read the Academy Grassroots Network emails sent to US members when we need their help voicing support to Congress on neurology priorities. We provide all the background and a sample message. Sending your message can be as easy as three clicks:

  • Click on "Contact Congress Now"
  • Select the health policy issue from the provided list and review background information
  • Click on "send message" and you're done!

Participate in Neurology on the Hill
For two days during the month of March, Neurology on the Hill brings AAN members to Capitol Hill to advocate directly for the Academy's top legislative priorities. You can join other members and visit
Washington, DC, to advocate for fair reimbursement policy for neurology. Applications are available every fall at www.aan.com/advocacy/noh. Apply early.

Other Ways You Can Be Involved

  • Meet with your senator or representative's home office or attend your local town hall meetings.
  • Submit a letter to the editor of local newspapers.
  • Get involved in your state neurological society and send a message together on neurology's behalf.
  • Talk to your patients about getting involved. Let them know that the ability of elderly and disabled people to get neurological care is threatened.

Resources
We provide a wealth of resources through the Academy's Health Care Reform Toolkit where you can learn about all neurology-related health system reform issues.

Here you will find:

  • The latest health reform news articles
  • Capitol Hill Report, a bi-weekly column written by Academy lobbyist Mike Amery
  • Resources and tools:
  • The Academy's Health Reform Principles
  • A sample letter for your patients
  • Compelling statistics you can use when talking with your representatives or writing a letter to the editor
  • "Critical Role of Neurologists In Our Health Care System" document, which was developed to educate policymakers about the unique role of neurology in our health system

Finally, the best way you can advocate for your profession is to spread the word! Pass along all "Calls to Action" to your fellow colleagues and encourage them to join you in your efforts. Thousands of your colleagues have already answered our call to action, but we need your voice to ensure that neurology is heard in Washington!

The AAN's Advocacy Staff are available to work with you on all of your advocacy-related efforts. Contact them at advocacy@aan.com with your questions or interest in helping fight for our cause.