Capitol Hill Report: Party Conventions Talk Health Care

September 10, 2012

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

If you got a chance to watch some of the party conventions, you saw that health care, and particularly the Affordable Care Act that both parties are now referring to as “Obamacare,” still remains at the front of the political discussion.

I think this is a good sign as we approach the end of the 112th Congress. Both parties’ reliance on health care as a campaign issue hopefully will ensure that whoever controls the strings of government will focus on solving some of the immediate problems facing patients and physicians like the threat of nearly 30-percent cuts in Medicare payments due to the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula.

As I mentioned in the last Capitol Hill Report, before leaving town congressional leaders reached a budget agreement to avoid a government shutdown in the fall. Unfortunately, the deal does not include an adjustment or repeal of the SGR, which sets Medicare physician reimbursement rates.

We are preparing for a big push on health issues for the rest of the year, but with Congress still out of session, I thought I would provide information on some recent successes by AAN members and a very unfortunate loss by a congressional champion for neurology.

AAN Board Member Wins $50,000 Researcher Advocacy Prize

Lisa M. Shulman, MD, FAAN, from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, is the recipient of the $50,000 Parkinson's Action Network (PAN) Researcher Advocacy Prize. Dr. Shulman currently serves on the AAN Board of Directors and has a long history of involvement with AAN advocacy. She is a former member of the Government Relations Committee and was a recipient of the Viste Neurology Public Policy Fellowship where she served in the office of Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA).

In a press release from PAN, CEO Amy Comstock Rick said that, "Scientific researchers working toward a cure for Parkinson's disease play an important role in the fight for federal funding and policy support for the 500,000 to 1.5 million Americans living with Parkinson's disease. We hope these prizes encourage more researchers to begin or increase advocacy and community outreach efforts.  Almost more than anyone else, they understand the critical role of NIH and other federal funding at their universities and institutions.

The AAN congratulates Dr. Shulman, who will receive her prize at PAN's annual Morris K. Udall Awards Dinner in Washington, DC, on October 3, 2012.

Massachusetts Patient Victory

Congratulations are also in order for former AAN Government Relations Committee Chair Linda Y. Buchwald, MD, FAAN, who recently succeeded in a four-year campaign by patients and physicians to change Massachusetts law to permit the offering of coupons for prescription drug and biological products.

Massachusetts is one of a few states to have an all-payer anti-kickback statute that prohibits providing coupons or rebates that are offered by manufacturers to patients to offset costs or co-payments for prescription drug or biological products.

On July 8, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) signed H. 4200, which relaxes the marketing laws to allow these discount coupons. Dr. Buchwald, who served as a spokesperson for a coalition, said that this will make a big difference in access to drugs and biologics for patients who face high costs, such as those with MS.

Neurology Champion Rep. Russ Carnahan Loses Primary

Redistricting has claimed the congressional career of another member of Congress who has been helpful to neurology and patients with neurologic conditions. On August 7, Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-M) lost the Democratic primary for a seat that includes St. Louis and surrounding suburbs to fellow incumbent W. Lacy Clay (D-MO).

I talked with Congressman Carnahan, who is co-chair of the Congressional MS Caucus, after the primary. He described his race as a fight between two players trying to make the starting line up for a baseball team. He thanked the AAN for our strong support and vowed that he would be back in public service in some form soon.

Rep. Carnahan comes from a prominent Missouri family. His father served as governor and was elected to the US Senate after he perished in a plane crash during the campaign. His mother was then appointed to fill the Senate seat. I have no doubt that Carnahan will be back in public service soon and will continue his advocacy for patients with conditions like MS.

The Palatucci Advocacy Leadership Forum

Time is running out to apply for the 2013 Donald M. Palatucci Advocacy Leadership Forum, which will be held January 17 to 20, 2013, at the Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego, CA. The application deadline is September 16. 

If you never have attended, I encourage you to learn more about this great program that trains AAN members to be advocates for their profession and their patients. I hope to see you there!