Capitol Hill Report: New Physicians Come to Congress

November 5, 2010

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

A Better Understanding of Physicians in DC?

With Republicans sweeping more than 60 US House seats and taking the majority, five new physicians will come to Congress. I met each of these winners as candidates last summer and this fall. Each said that one of the main reasons they were running was a lack of understanding by Congress of the needs of patients and physicians, exemplified most by the unsustainable Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) Formula. US Rep.-elects Larry Bucshon, MD (R-IN), Andy Harris, MD (R-MD), Dan Benishek, MD (R-MI), Joe Heck, MD (R-NV), and Nan Hayworth, MD (R-NY) will take their seats in January. Unfortunately, the current Congress must act in a lame duck session prior to November 30 to prevent a 23-percent Medicare cut under the SGR.

Free Webinar to Discuss Election Results

To better understand the impact of the election on neurology, US members should join us for the free webinar "The New Congress: New Opportunities for Neurology?" presented online on Monday, November 8 from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. CT.

I will be joined by Anna D. Hohler, MD, FAAN, chair of the BrainPAC Executive Committee, and Laurence Kinsella, MD, FAAN, co-chair of the Government Relations Committee, to 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. Visit www.aan.com/go/advocacy/webinars to learn more and register. We will also be recording the webinar so in case you miss it we will be posting it on this website.

Roommates

Last summer, I wrote about three members of Congress who have been helpful to neurology throughout the last year. When they are in Washington, DC, Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), Bruce Braley (D-IA), and Steve Kagen, MD (D-WI) are roommates.

I watched these races closely on election night, as each of these members was locked in tight re-election races. After all the votes were counted, Perlmutter and Braley survived, but Kagen’s northeast Wisconsin seat went to Republican Reid Ribble.

Other neurology supporters were also victorious, including Michael Burgess, MD (R-TX) and Russ Carnahan (D-MO), who authored the recent letter requesting that neurology be included in the primary care incentive (link). In fact, of the 26 members of Congress who signed the letter, at least 23 will be returning to Congress. Besides Kagen, Parker Griffith, MD (R-AL) was defeated in a primary.

AAN Fall Conference

Just before Election Day, I spent some time at the AAN Fall Conference in Las Vegas. I know that some of you were subjected to negative campaign ads throughout the election season, but I’m not certain that anything can compare to what was happening in Nevada. Each side in the race between Sen. Harry Reid (D) and challenger Sharron Angle raised $14 million in the six months preceding the election and they were spending it! Turning on the television meant very little programming and lots of ads, all of them negative. For a political enthusiast like me it was heaven. For the average Nevadan, I imagine it was torture. Reid pulled out the victory and is expected to remain as Senate majority leader.

One of the highlights of the conference was a BrainPAC reception where the guest of honor was Congresswoman Shelley Berkley (D-NV) who represents Las Vegas. Prior to attending, Berkley wrote her own letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi supporting neurology. The AAN is greatly appreciative of her efforts and will work with her in the 111th Congress as she was re-elected handily.