Capitol Hill Report: $100 Million White House Brain Research Initiative Announced

April 8, 2013

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

AAN Present at Launch of Key New Funding Effort in Neuroscience

AAN CEO Catherine M. Rydell, CAE, attended a White House event last week where President Obama announced a bold new research initiative, the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. The BRAIN Initiative ultimately aims to help researchers find new ways to treat, cure, and prevent many diseases of the brain.

“We are very excited by the administration’s commitment of much needed support for research into the brain diseases that devastate the lives of so many people,” said AAN President Timothy A. Pedley, MD, FAAN. “Our American Brain Foundation has emphasized funding the most promising research by the best and brightest young neurologists who are just starting their academic careers. Since 1993, the Foundation has provided more than $18 million dollars in research grants and supported more than 110 investigators. We welcome the president’s ambitious initiative and the critical backing it provides to the neuroscience community. We look forward to learning more about this project, and we are committed to assisting the administration in any way we can.”

The BRAIN Initiative will be a collaborative effort of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The funding details will be laid out in the president's 2014 proposed budget, expected to go to Congress this week and should be near $100 million to jumpstart this exciting new effort. In addition, the NIH is establishing a working group to determine the goals for this initiative and create a plan for achieving these goals.

According to Rydell, the AAN was the only medical specialty invited to participate. Going forward the AAN will work with the administration to ensure that neurology is helpful in directing this important effort.

Read the AAN’s press release.

American Academy of Neurology’s new Washington, DC office.

AAN Washington Moves

We moved into new office space on Capitol Hill last week. After three years near Union Station, Derek, Daneen, and I moved into the second floor of 401 C St. NE, two blocks east of the US Capitol on the Senate side.

If you are coming to DC any time soon, be sure to drop by and take a look.

MedPAC Challenged on Cognitive Care

Glenn Hackbarth, chair of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), recently appeared before the House Ways & Means Subcommittee on Health to explain the commission’s recent recommendations on fixing the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula. For the third consecutive report, the commission recommends freezing payments to primary care providers while cutting all other specialties significantly.

At the request of the AAN, subcommittee member Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX) asked, “In the report, the commission found the current system undervalues primary care and overvalues specialty care. I agree primary care physicians are different, I’m also aware of potential primary care shortage…however is MedPAC concerned about the access to cognitive specialties who also bill a lot of office visits but would face cuts under your recommendations?”

Hackbarth answered by saying they are making some changes that would help increase reimbursements for cognitive services broadly but didn’t say what they were and moved on without commenting on any specifics or how their cuts would hit cognitive specialists.

The AAN thanks Rep. Johnson for challenging MedPAC on this important issue in a public forum.


Regulatory Corner

by Daneen Grooms, MHSA, AAN Manager of Regulatory Affairs

AAN Meets with CMS for Update on Refinement Panel Request

Last week, I met with Jonathan Blum, the Director of Medicare for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), to reiterate our request to send the new NCS and EMG codes to refinement panel for further review. Director Blum informed me that a decision will be made within the next month and that the AAN will receive a notification letter during that timeframe if the codes are accepted.

Advocacy Notes

by Tim Miller, Senior Program Manager, Communications & State Advocacy

  • Thanks to the help of neurology advocates in Pennsylvania, a bill that would allow audiologists to perform intraoperative monitoring has been put to rest (for now). Members in PA aggressively educated legislators and staff about IOM and why physician oversight is needed.
  • Now that sequestration officially went into effect on April 1, members are encouraged to check out the AAN resource on coding and reimbursement which includes a sequestration FAQ.
  • Tennessee will become the 44th state to adopt new sports concussion laws as both the House and Senate passed legislation that will implement new regulations, including immediate removal from play when a youth athlete is suspected of having a concussion.