Capitol Hill Report: Congress Returns - Health Care Still Top Priority

September 8, 2009

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By Mike Amery, Legislative Counsel, Federal Affairs, (202) 349-4299, mamery@aan.com

The mission of the Academy is to be "indispensable to its members." One way the Academy fulfills this mission is by representing of neurology in the halls of Congress. Capitol Hill Report presents regular updates on legislative action and how the AAN ensures that the voice of neurology is heard on Capitol Hill. The Academy's legislative counsel in Washington, DC, Mike Amery, offers weekly updates on advocacy for neurology and neurologic concerns.

The health care reform debate heated up over the August recess as members of Congress across the country heard both support and protests from constituents about House Bill HR 3200. Media reports showed angry confrontations between supporters and opponents—a fight even broke out at one event recently, leading to a man biting off another man's finger!

Fortunately, this type of confrontation is rare within the halls of Congress, so reasoned debate is expected to continue now that Congress has had some input from the people.

In order to get back on track, President Obama has scheduled a joint session of Congress for Wednesday, September 9. Members of the House and Senate will meet in the House chamber where Obama is expected to give more detail about his ideas for reform. It is noteworthy that the Administration has changed its terminology in this debate from "health care reform" to "health insurance reform."

As previously reported in Capitol Hill Report, the most contentious issue remains the question of whether a public plan will be offered as a new option for health insurance. In the current bill, a public option exists with physicians receiving payment rates of Medicare-plus-five-percent. The Senate is not currently considering a public option, and is instead drafting language that would create health insurance exchange cooperatives modeled after electric co-ops. This could change if Republicans back away from the bipartisan negotiating table and leave Democrats to craft a bill without Republican support.

In the meantime, the Academy will continue to meet with key negotiators to ensure that neurology is included in any bonus payments for physicians performing high levels of evaluation and management (E/M). We will know if we have been successful as soon as a Senate bill is released.

Read all of Mike Amery's reports on the Capitol Hill Report page.