Capitol Hill Report: Congress Finally Keeps a Promise

August 9, 2010

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CBO Score another Milestone for Academy Advocacy

By Mike Amery, Legislative Counsel, Federal Affairs, (202) 506-7468, mamery@aan.com

For more than a year, the American Academy of Neurology has asked for a cost analysis, or score, for adding neurology to the cognitive care incentives of the health care reform bill. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has finally come back with a score of $300 million over 10 years—or only $30 million per year—which in Washington is equivalent to the change we find under our sofa cushions!  Please see the April 2 edition of Capitol Hill Report, "An Outrageous Omission" for more details.

For so long we were told neurology couldn't even be considered until that score was received. In fact, when more than 100 Academy members came to Washington last March for Neurology on the Hill, one of the issues our advocates addressed in their congressional offices was the need for this CBO score.

As Congress heads into its August recess, we are hard at work with Congressman Michael Burgess, MD  (R-TX) and Congressman Russ Carnahan (D-MO) to put together a letter that will be signed by as many members of Congress as possible. The letter will go to the leadership of the House asking that this issue be addressed in any appropriate legislative vehicle in the 111th Congress.  Look for a future Capitol Hill Report that will include these letters.

We are particularly interested in attaching it to the bill that will need to move forward to prevent a 21-percent cut in Medicare reimbursement under the flawed Sustainable Growth Rate formula (SGR). The SGR cut is scheduled for December 1, 2010.  Watch for an Academy Grass Roots Action Alert email in the next few weeks asking you to help by contacting your member of Congress and asking them to support neurology by signing on to this letter. Your involvement will be a crucial part of our success! 

Dr. Cascino Goes to Washington

The Academy has nominated AAN Board member Terry Cascino, MD, FAAN, to the National Healthcare Workforce Commission that was created by the health reform bill. The commission will serve as a national resource to develop evaluations of education and training activities to determine whether the demand for health care workers is being met; identify and recommend ways to address barriers to improved coordination at the federal, state, and local levels; and encourage innovations to address population needs, constant changes in technology, and other environmental factors.

Dr. Cascino recently came to Capitol Hill where we met with House Energy & Commerce (E&C) Health Subcommittee Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and the author of the commission in the House bill, Harry Teague (D-NM).

Dr. Cascino also met with staff in several offices including the Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), and the House E&C Chair Henry Waxman (D-CA). The appointment of 15 members will be made by the Government Accounting Office, but support from members of Congress is helpful. Minnesota’s Senators, Amy Klobuchar (D) and Al Franken (D) sent a letter of support , as did Dr. Cascino’s Congressman, letter of support .

We aren’t sure if it was due to the meetings on Capitol Hill, but Dr. Cascino has an interview scheduled with GAO soon. I’ll report back when the appointments are made prior to September 30, 2010.

DIY Advocacy

Congress has recessed until mid-September as members return to their states and campaign for re-election. Look for them and other candidates at town hall meetings or campaign appearances at state and county fairs. Take a minute and identify yourself to them as a constituent and member neurologist of the AAN. Ask them where they stand on SGR and the need for increased NIH funding for research into brain disorders. Let them know these issues are important to you and your patients—who are also voters! They need to hear from you, and this is the best time to empower yourself and advocate for your profession.