Thanks to your efforts, the 110th Congress passed a number of Academy's priorities, making 2008 a very successful year for the Academy in Washington DC. The following is an update on the issues brought to Capitol Hill.
In response to a need for epilepsy care for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the Academy developed bills to create Epilepsy Centers of Excellence at the Department of Veterans' Affairs. The bill passed both houses of Congress and was signed into law by the president in October. The VA has already begun planning to create the centers, which will improve care for veterans and advance research on epilepsy. This was a significant victory, since this outcome would not have resulted without the leadership and efforts of Academy members.
In July, Congress passed and overrode a presidential veto of a Medicare Bill, HR 6331. The 10.6 percent Medicare physician payment cut due to occur on July 1 was cancelled, and the 0.5 percent update that was in effect for the first six months of this year was extended through the remainder of 2008. For calendar year 2009, an anticipated 5.4 percent cut will be replaced by a 1.1 percent payment update.
Like previous legislation addressing the Medicare payment crisis, H.R. 6331 does not eliminate or reform the sustainable growth rate (SGR) system. As a result, the baseline trend for future updates remains in place and physicians will confront an estimated 21 percent payment cut in 2010. This cut will essentially be the sum of all payment reductions that would have been implemented in recent years if short-term legislative "fixes" had not been enacted. Eliminating the cut and reforming the payment system will again be a top priority for the Academy in 2009.
After passage by the House, The STOP Stroke Act was included as part of the Advancing America's Priorities Act (S. 3297) in Senate. Unfortunately, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) single-handedly killed the bill by objecting to consideration of S. 3297 on the Senate floor. He used the pending financial crises as the reason to stop all new spending on public health programs.
The Congress was unable to come to agreement on most FY2009 spending bills, including the one that contains funding for NIH. Congress passed a continuing resolution, which will fund the NIH at 2008 levels through March 5, 2009. Increasing funding for NIH will continue to be a priority of the Academy in 2009.
In May, the President signed both the Newborn Screening Saves Lives Act and the Genetic Non-Discrimination Act into law.
The Academy will continue to build on this success by hosting the Seventh Annual Neurology on the Hill March 22–23, 2009.