By Mike Amery, Legislative Counsel, Federal Affairs, (202) 506-7468, firstname.lastname@example.org
In the last Capitol Hill Report I mentioned that 18 members of Congress signed the Burgess-Carnahan letter to Speaker Pelosi asking for neurology to be included in any primary care incentives. There were a few last minute signers bringing the total to 24. You can view the final letter including the signatures and the letter signed by 21 patient groups.
Reaching success with payment issues in Congress is not as fast as we'd like, but here's an example of how perseverance is rewarded.
For several years, the Academy supported an initiative by the ALS Association to pass federal legislation to create an ALS Registry. A number of Academy members joined the ALS Association on Capitol Hill year after year asking for authorization from Congress, and finally the 110th Congress passed legislation (S. 1382) that President Bush signed into law in October 2008.
The National ALS Registry is now fully operational. Patients with ALS can begin enrolling by going to www.cdc.gov/als to sign up for what the ALS Association says may become the single largest ALS research project ever created as the registry will capture an unprecedented amount of information about the disease. The ALS Association provides additional information and access to the registry at www.alsa.org/registry.
This is a great success story for the ALS Association and the Academy salutes them and our many members who worked to make it happen. Dr. Stacy Rudnicki, an ALS neurologist from Arkansas, attended several ALS Capitol Hill Days where the registry was a top issue. "Bringing the issue of ALS to Capitol Hill was always a profound experience. I'm grateful that all the work we put into advocating for the registry has paid off," said Rudnicki.
With Congress adjourned until after the Nov. 2 elections, it's worth noting some of the business that was not accomplished, other than, of course, a fix for the physician reimbursement crises.
As of today, the 111th Congress has not passed any of the 12 appropriations bills that fund government for the next year. Government is currently being funded by a continuing resolution that funds current spending at 2010 levels. Depending on the outcome of the elections next week, hopes for a real FY2011 spending resolution are dimming as Congress will likely punt the issue to the next Congress taking office in January.
This leaves a number of key issues for the Academy in limbo, particularly funding for research programs such as the NIH. The Academy signed on to two letters this week asking congressional leaders to move forward with increases recommended by the president and some key congressional committees for NIH and other programs that benefit patients.
The Academy will offer an online webinar—"The New Congress: New Opportunities for Neurology?"— to US members on November 8, from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. CT. I will be hosting the webinar along with Anna D. Hohler, MD, FAAN, chair of the BrainPAC Executive Committee and Laurence Kinsella, MD, FAAN, co-chair of the Academy's Government Relations Committee. We'll share our insights on the outcome of the mid-term elections, the fates of legislators supported by the Academy, and how the results of the Congressional races may affect neurology.