Capitol Hill Report: Wrapping Up 2010

December 17, 2010

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

Congress Finally Acts on SGR

By now you should know that President Obama has signed a one-year delay in Medicare cuts called for by the flawed Sustainable Growth Rate formula. A new cut, probably about 25 percent, is now scheduled for January 1, 2012. This gives the physician community another year to try to find a permanent fix for a problem costing $330 billion over 10 years. Although we have a break for a year, this will continue to be a top priority—unfortunately—for the Academy.

I also want you to know about the late victory for Alzheimer's disease with the passage of S.3036 which will create a coordinating office for the disease within the Department of Health and Human Resources. This was of interest to many Academy members and we were successful in helping convince Congress to take this important step.

AAN Expands Influence in Washington in 2010

Moving legislation in Congress can take a long time, sometimes even decades. Even when you are on the right side of an issue, it still takes elected officials (and staff) to get something though Congress. A key component of long-term success is to ensure that you are in a position to work the process by having the relationships and trust you need from decision makers. In 2010, the AAN increased its relationships, influence, and profile with Congress like never before.

It started last February with the eighth annual Neurology on the Hill as more than 100 neurologists stormed Capitol Hill to inform 300 members of Congress about the need to include neurology in the primary care incentives in the health reform bill. Advocates were successful in pressuring Congress to get the Congressional Budget Office to estimate the cost of adding neurology to a 10-percent bonus program ($300 million over 10 years). However, we have not been successful in getting neurology added…yet.

In June, I opened the new office on Capitol Hill, a block east of Union Station and just two blocks from the Hart Senate Office Building. The new space will allow the Academy to add two Washington-based staff in 2011. I am looking forward to introducing you to the new staff through Capitol Hill Report once they are hired in the first months of next year.

In addition to Neurology on the Hill, AAN congressional contacts soared in 2010:

  • Online messages: Almost 3,000 AAN members sent 19,000 messages to Congress on Medicare cuts, the incentive bonus, consult codes, and other issues
  • Washington staff: 250 unique contacts with members of Congress or their staff
  • BrainPAC: Raised $178,598 from 733 members (as of December 17). Contributed $205,500 in 2009-2010 to 87 candidates up for re-election, 78 of whom won seats in Congress

There's Always Next Year

I can't thank each of you enough for the efforts you made in 2010. Whether it involved contacting Congress, talking with your patients, or even coming to Washington, DC, it all makes a difference!

Advocacy will continue in 2011 on many of the same issues and I'm sure several more. As the Academy expands its presence in Washington, I hope you will continue to add your voice in support of neurology and patients with neurologic disease. I trust you have enjoyed the 25 issues of Capitol Hill Report in 2010. I'll start again in the first few weeks after Congress comes back for the 112th time. I hope you will continue to join me in 2011 on the fascinating ride that is the United States Congress.

Happy Holidays!